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Automotive News - March 2014

2014 Kia Optima Hybrid

At the Vancouver Auto Show, Kia unveiled the guts of it's 2014 Optima Hybrid. The hybrid version is a little behind it's gasoline powered sister, as it has been on sale since late last fall. The Optima Hybrid features a bunch of new features concerning it's looks. The front end has been redesigned to enhance aerodynamic efficiency. It's got a grill all to itself as well as new alloy wheels. The Hybrid's headlights also now contain LED bulbs too. The 2014 Optima Hybrid is still powered by a 2.4-litre Atkinson, which is paired to a 47 hp electric motor. The power from the electric and gasoline engines combined put out 199 horsepower, but it's the 235 lb-ft of torque that surprises us, offering impressive acceleration that will meet the expectations of anyone getting behind the wheel. It's lithium polymer battery has a 47 kW capacity. This engine configuration is mated to a 6-speed torque converter automatic transmission.

Urban Mobility: Toyota's Attractive Solution

Urban pollution is a problem here, as well as in cities all over the world. We recently heard that the city of Paris, France is demanding sacrifices from motorists in order to reduce pollution caused by cars. Just like we do in the summer with lawn watering, vehicles with even registration numbers can be driven one day, and those with odd numbers can be driven the next. A big problem is people's reluctance for change their routines, and convincing them to take public transit. Toyota may have a solution in the works. The Japanese automaker has announced that they have started real-world testing of their "i-Road", a personal transportation vehicle that try out in the Greater Tokyo Area. These tests, taking place from March 24 through to early June, are of a limited duration meant to assess the effectiveness of the electric vehicle in real-life situations within an urban environment.

2015 Chevrolet City Express

Chevy abandoned the mid-sized cargo van market in 2005, when it stopped making the Chevy Astro. We knew a few months ago that Chevrolet was working on a small cargo van to take on the Ford Transit Connect and the Nissan NV200. Each of these vans are smaller than the large conventional vans that are popular with small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). Now successfully developed, the 2015 City Express debuted at the Chicago Auto Show, and has now made it's way to the Canadian Mechanical and Plumbing Exposition in Toronto. If the City Express seems familiar, you're not wrong. It's essentially the same van as the NV200, supplied by Nissan, with some different cosmetic and interior details added by GM. While the Transit Connect can be modified to be a family vehicle, the City Express is strictly a commercial utility vehicle. Since it will obviously be used to haul objects around, note that the cargo space is 3474 litres, and the estimated load capacity is 1500 pounds. Curb weight should be about 5,000 pounds.

Seven New Alfa Romeo Models On The Way

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles has ambitious plans for boosting their flagging Alfa Romeo brand. By 2018, the automaker intends to increase sales fivefold, and will release seven new models to make this happen. Beginning in 2016, we will see a convertible Spider released, which will be followed up with the Giulia and Alfetta models in both sedan and wagon versions, in 2017 and 2018, respectively. For those not familiar, the Giulia sedan will run up against the BMW 3 series, while the Alfetta sedan is more along the lines of the BMW 5 series or Mercedes' E-class. The Alfetta will be a little smaller than the Alfa Romeo 166, and closer to the size of the Maserati Ghibli. Also in 2017 and 2018, Alfa will launch two crossover SUVs, one large and the other a compact. It's quite possible that one of these will be twinned with a new Jeep. Currently under development for these new models is a new rear- and all-wheel drive platform code-named Giorgio. Existing MiTo and Giuletta front-wheel drive hatchbacks will not get replacements. In fact, the Giulia sedan will replace the current 159 model.

Audi Goes After Tech-Savvy Fans

Audi's new A3 is the German automaker's entry-level model. It's the smallest and cheapest Audi you can buy, but that doesn't mean the company has adopted an attitude of austerity for the little car. It is German after all, which immediately makes us think of performance and luxury, with gadgets and a level of comfort one can only dream about in Korean, Japanese or North American vehicles. It may be entry-level, but Audi is targeting young, tech-savvy buyers with it. Audi's goal with the A3 was to offer a well-equipped car, one that is up to Audi's standards around the $30,000 mark. That couldn't have been easy. While their advertising tagline is "Stay uncompromised," a few compromises had to be made to get this car in on budget. It's standard engines, a 1.8-litre and a 2.0-litre, are good, they're not even close to the ones available in higher end Audis. The design too, is a little less, the materials not quite as sumptuous, but it's an Audi and it's affordable.

SQ Unveils It's 2013 Road Safety Record

Although talk of death on the roads is never a laughing matter, yesterday the Sûreté du Québec (SQ) showed us that our road safety record is improving. Compared to 2012, the number of fatalities on Quebec roads decreased from 279 to 259 and serious injury crashes from 909 to 759. If we go back to the numbers from 2006, when the numbers were nearly double, 466 and 1616 respectively, we can see that our roads are definitely safer places. Unfortunately, young drivers are still over-represented in this snapshot. Although they only represent 10 percent of licensed drivers, they are involved in 23 percent of the accidents listed. This is still an improvement over the 26.4 percent in 2012.

10 Cars You've Never Heard Of

While most of us are pretty familiar with the line-ups offered by the big three, and the more popular Japanese, German and South Korean automakers, there exists an entire world out there of cars that few North Americans have even heard of. Niche markets abound, executing unique concepts and features that may eventually find their way into mainstream production models, while others simply prefer to remain unique and exclusive, catering to a very special clientele.

2015 Ford Mustang Convertible Revealed

While the 2015 Ford Mustang has not yet arrived at dealerships, information about the convertible model has begun to appear. First of all, if you were hoping for a hard top convertible, forget about it! The 2015 Ford Mustang Convertible has a fabric roof and it comes in one colour, black. The three-ply roof has a softer appearance through the addition of a fourth and reinforcing foam insulation between the reinforcement and the top layer. The opening mechanism, developed in collaboration with Webasto, is now fully electric. It is quieter, more compact, and simpler than the electric-hydraulic mechanism it replaces. In addition, it is twice as fast, taking between 7 and 10 seconds to open, and 9 to 12 seconds to close. Unfortunately, it only works when the car is moving slower than 5 km/h. This means you'll need to pull over to the side of the road to close it in the event of a sudden downpour.

Winter Tires: Keep Them A Little Longer

As of next Sunday, the first day of Spring, Quebeccers will have the legal right to remove your winter tires and replace them with your summer tires. However, with as this tough winter that we are experiencing this year draws to an end, tire dealers shouldn't exactly be crowded yet. While many of us are anxious to get rid of our clunky, gas guzzling snows, winter tires can be left on for several more weeks without risking damage or excessive wear. Winter tires are moulded from a softer grade of rubber, but they won't degrade at temperatures lower than seven degrees Celsius. On top of this, although the asphalt will reveal itself to us again over the next few weeks, we could very well see ice forming overnight due to the melting snow. Holding onto your winter tires a bit longer will be well worth it.

McLaren 650S Spider

At the Geneva Motor Show, McLaren, a creator of high-performance automobiles introduced the 650S Spider, a convertible super car that slits between the brand's 12C and it's hybrid P1. It aims to dethrone the Ferrari 458 Speciale. With a twin-turbocharged 3.8-litre engine, the 650S allows it's driver to enjoy 641 horsepower to propel the car to 100 km/h in an incredible three seconds. The middle mounted V8 engine is paired to a seven-speed dual clutch. According to McLaren, it's top speed is 333 km/h. This car is the by-product of it's two siblings, with 75 percent of it's parts coming from the 12C and the front end and some aerodynamic components derived from the P1.

Nissan Sport Sedan Concept

Recently unveiled at the Detroit and Toronto auto shows, the Nissan Sport Sedan Concept, despite it's exciting silhouette, quickly slipped into automotive industry limbo. Since most of the auto shows take place over a period of a few weeks, it is difficult to keep journalists interested in a particular model for very long. Nothing is for certain yet, but this concept could end up being the future Maxima, if it ever enters the mass production stage. Hiding under the hood of this sport sedan concept is a V6 3.5-litre engine that gets over 300 horses, mated to an Xtronic CVT, which would unquestionably place it at the top of the Nissan sedan range.

2014 Mini Hatchback

Much like the royal family, the Mini presents itself as British, but it's definitely German down deep. There is a rumour that when BMW bought Mini more than ten years ago, it was a way for the luxury automaker to showcase it's new front-wheel drive technology, without hurting the BMW brand. After all, rear-wheel drive equals performance in many minds. BMW will neither confirm nor deny this rumour. The technology was both impressive and popular, and BMW had a hit on their hands with the new Mini. Jump ahead a decade, and people are now willing to accept the idea of a BMW that is front-wheel drive. This means a further opportunity for the automaker, and the 2014 Mini's platform is being shared with the upcoming BMW 1 Series. Bringing the Mini brand closer to the BMW fold will only mean good things for Mini, as the car's execution and design moves closer to meeting BMW's uncompromising standards.

Car Of The Year, As Chosen By Women

Every October, since 2009, a panel of female automotive journalists from around the world have joined together to determine the Car of the Year, as seen by women. Occupying the first position of this list, this year, is the 1.0-litre Ford Fiesta EcoBoost. The Fiesta heads the economy car category, and in the second round of voting, walked away with the title of best choice in all categories, ahead of the Mazda CX-5 and the Range Rover. The Mazda CX-5 won the SUV category, just ahead of the Hyundai Santa Fe. In another category, where women could vote strictly for the car they find most appealing, the Aston Martin Vanquish was the most desirable.

2014 Buick Regal GS AWD

General Motors has added an all-wheel drive model to their 2014 Buick Regal lineup this year, one that is sure to prove more than capable of handling Canadian road conditions. In fact, it's the same AWD system found in the Buick LaCrosse and in the Cadillac XTS. The 2014 Regal GS AWD is the top of the Regal line, Buick's performance model. It start's at nearly $43,000, and can run you up to $50,000 with the extra bells and whistles. Price alone will set your expectations of the GS high, and it delivers. For those with lower budgets, the AWD is being added to every Regal Turbo model, which means all models except the eAssist mild hybrid, which brings the price of owning a Buick Regal with AWD down to about $35,000, $40,000 for the premium package.

New 2015 Ford Focus

The Ford Focus may be the best selling car in the world. The current model has been with us since 2011, and since the competition in this segment is so fierce, it's already time for Ford to update it's very popular compact car. The headlights and grille are more refined and elegant, with a little inspiration coming from the Fusion. The car's hood, taillights and trunk lid have also been redesigned. It will be available in Canada in both four and five door models. The biggest novelty is very small and found under the hood. Buyers can now select the EcoBoost 1.0-litre three-cylinder engine. Coupled to a six-speed manual gearbox, this engine was twice (in 2012 and in 2013) named "Engine of the Year" by a panel of automotive journalists.

Retrieval Of Sinkhole Swallowed Corvettes Begins

By now most people have heard about the sinkhole that opened up at the National Corvette Museum in Bowling Green, KY, on February 12. Eight of the museum's prized, collectible Corvettes were swallowed up by the Earth. Recovery has now begun this week. As of today, three of the eight vehicles have been recovered in front of an audience of cheering spectators and thousands of online viewers as the cars were lifted by crane and placed at ground level. Among the vehicles recovered were the 2009 ZR1 Blue Devil, which is on loan from General Motors, and the 1993 Ruby Red 40th anniversary edition. The Blue Devil, which had plunged nearly 30 feet but landed on it's wheels, seems to have survived with only minor damage including a ruptured oil line, a broken window and cracks on the lower part of it's door panels. Once it was lifted, workers were able to get the car running again, and drove it 20 feet to the museum's doorway.

Italian Built Baby Jeep Coming

It's indisputable that the newly redesigned Jeep is incredibly popular. While the styling may be polarizing, long-time fans don't seem to love the new design, everyone agrees that it's a marvel of technology with the world's first nine-speed transmission. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has big plans for the Jeep brand, intending to sell one million of them this year, a huge jump of 37 percent up from last year's record of 731,565. A big part of fulfilling that ambitious plan is to offer more variations within the iconic off-road brand; hence the new Jeep Renegade subcompact SUV. Designed in the U.S. and built in Italy, the baby jeep still looks like a jeep with it's prominent grille and boxy styling, somewhat reminiscent of the Jeep Wrangler or the 2002 Jeep Liberty. The second Jeep to share a Fiat platform, the Renegade will be built on Fiat's "flexible small wide" platform found on the Fiat 500L and will likely only be available with full time all-wheel drive. Buyers can choose either gasoline or diesel engines. Fuel economy will be more than 30 mpg.

Purchases Delivered To Your Car

We live in a world where the days really need to be longer than 24 hours. When we entered this technological era, we were promised that we would have more time for leisure. Wrong! Thanks to the technological age, we spend more time in front of our computers, smart phones or writing on social networks. We spend all week slavishly working in order to pay for all of these gadgets. How many of you do not buy online, because you can't be certain that you'll be at home to receive the delivery? Volvo has a solution! At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Volvo will present a new form of "traveling delivery" service. With this new technology, consumers can select their car as the destination address of their purchases. With the help of a smart phone, the owner will be informed when a company wants to drop off a delivery or make a pickup of an item at their car.

Peugeot's Hybrid Air Powered Cars Coming Next Year

It's a tree hugger's dream come true. Instead of powered by fossil fuels or electricity, cars that can run on... air! French automaker Peugeot has announced that their world's first air-powered hybrid car is on it's way next year. The car is capable of running on gasoline, a mixture of gas and air, or simply air when driven at speeds below 43 mph. Peugeot's project has been developed by 100 elite scientists and engineers under top secret conditions at the company's development centre near Paris. Range anxiety, an issue with electric and hybrid vehicles is no longer a problem. Thanks to a sophisticated device, the car will replenish it's supply of compressed air automatically. Since expensive batteries are not required to store energy, these cars that are fitted with the Hybrid Air system will cost less than traditional hybrid vehicles.

2015 Ford Expedition

It is increasingly odd to encounter this type of vehicle on the road these days while gasoline prices are flirting with $1.50 per litre, but Ford put a lot of energy into this big truck to make it both more economical and luxurious. Ford recently revealed photos of the new 2015 expedition, but if you're like us, you're probably disappointed that Ford did not do much when it came to the exterior of the F-150. So little, that you might not even notice that it's a new model. The 2015 Expedition, on sale later this year, now hides under it's hood Ford's very popular 3.5-litre EcoBoost engine. This engine, with it's direct injection and twin turbochargers, is more powerful and efficient than the 5.4-litre V8 it replaces, while at the same time being more fuel efficient. It also provides more torque at low revs.

Best Selling 2014 EcoDiesel Ram 1500 Truck

Many North Americans are known for their aversion to diesel engines. Prejudices lasting eighty years and the price of diesel (too expensive when compared to regular gasoline) are disadvantages for manufacturers trying to introduce the next generation of diesel engines. Running with the wind? Chrysler's RAM brand truck opened it's books for pre-orders on February 7th for anyone who wanted the new 2014 RAM 1500 EcoDiesel. Quantities are limited, and two and a half days later, the 8,000 trucks offered to Americans were all reserved. The excellent diesel fuel consumption of 28 mpg (8.4 L/100 km) and 420 lb-ft of torque convinced many of our neighbours to the south that diesel is a sensible choice.

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