The Truth About Cars » City Car The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Thu, 17 Jul 2014 19:25:56 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » City Car Viva Vauxhall! British Brand Adds Spark To Its Lineup Thu, 22 May 2014 09:00:53 +0000 vauxhall-viva-fr

Spurred on by the success of the Volkswagen Up! and Ford Ka, Vauxhall (and presumably Opel) will market a city car slotting below the Adam.

Based on the next-generation Chevrolet Spark, the Vauxhall will wear the Viva nameplate, which was last used in 1979. According to Auto Express, the Opel variant will use a different name, which would be a rare departure from the typical Opel/Vauxhall arrangement. Power is said to come from GM’s new small engine family, likely a 1.0L 3-cylinder unit. Like the Spark, the Viva would be built in South Korea. Hopefully the handsome styling carries over to our side of the pond.

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The Twingo Turns 20 Sat, 14 Dec 2013 15:15:03 +0000 ku-xlarge (2)

Our friends at Jalopnik have an interesting history on the Renault Twingo, a car that is about to celebrate its 20th birthday, and has arguably entered the “small car hall of fame” alongside cars like the Mini and the Volkswagen Golf. You can read about its origins as a Polish people’s car and see how its strayed further and further away from the ideal. The next Twingo is slated to share a platform with the upcoming Smart Fortwo replacement, and that means a rear-engine, rear drive layout.

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Vauxhall Names New Small Car After Opel’s Namesake Wed, 11 Jul 2012 14:53:39 +0000

Even though the Vauxhall Adam is named after its German twin’s founder, the British arm of General Motors felt it necessary to steal the ailing brand’s thunder, and release photos of their new city car – as if stealing production of the Astra wasn’t enough.

The Adam will offer two gasoline and one diesel engine, the most powerful of which tops out at 98 horsepower and 1.4L. The real draw apparently, is the customization aspect, with over 1 million possible trim and paint combinations available, which sounds like an absolute nightmare as far as production and ordering goes.Three basic trim levels, dubbed JAM, GLAM and SLAM are available (yes, really).

Pricing should be in line with the Fiat 500 and Mini Cooper. We’re not getting it, and that’s ok. It looks like a Geely-fied take on the 500 mated with a Citroen DS3, and the Adam SLAM sounds like something that arrives at your door in a plain brown wrapper.

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Why Torontonians Love The Smart Fortwo Fri, 27 Apr 2012 19:22:18 +0000

A reader sent us this photo, explaining the “success” of the Smart Fortwo in Canada. It’s not because of rising gas prices or Canadian small car love. The real reason is that the Fortwo is just so easy to park in the tight confines of Toronto!

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2013 Chevrolet Spark Priced At $12,995 Thu, 05 Apr 2012 15:47:31 +0000

The 2013 Chevrolet Spark won’t unseat the Nissan Versa as America’s cheapest car when it launches in late 2012. Starting at $12,995, the basic LS model comes with a fairly decent suite of equipment, including 10 airbags, air conditioning, auxiliary jack (hooray!) power windows, Onstar and 15 inch alloy wheels.

The 1LT trim will add a 7 inch touch screen, Bluetooth, a USB port, Chevrolet MyLink, power locks and windows, keyless entry and cruise control. All that will cost $14,495, so expect most of the models stocked by dealers to be the 1LT trim. The 2LT, at $15,795 adds mostly cosmetic changes, such as fog lamps, exclusive 15″ alloy wheels, body colored trim bits, heated leatherette seats and a leather-wrapped steering wheel. For comparison, a base Sonic starts at $14,600. All prices include destination.

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You Won’t Need A License To Drive This Renault Thu, 29 Mar 2012 16:43:09 +0000

Renault will start selling their Twizy electric vehicle in the United Kingdom, and the new vehicle is causing some headaches for UK regulators, who will have to establish a new vehicle category for it.

Limited to 28 mph, the Twizy would be classified as a new type of quadricycle due to its small size and 772 lb curb weight. 16 year olds would have to pass some kind of knowledge and practical exam, but they wouldn’t need a driver’s license to operate a Twizy.

While the Twizy would only cost $9,863, Renault’s Andy Heiron said that insurance premiums (which are exorbitantly high for young drivers in the UK) could be as high as $6363 for drivers under the age of 18 – though they would be heavily reduced as drivers got older. As novel as the concept of a city car for young people may be, the astronomical insurance figures will kill this thing long before the goofy appearance, or the reduced costs of a scooter begin to come in to play.

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Chevrolet Spark Pricing Will Undercut Sonic Tue, 20 Mar 2012 12:30:00 +0000

Chevrolet’s Spark minicar will go on sale in July starting at  a price point below the Sonic’s $14,600 (destination included). The Korean-built minicar competes in the “A-segment”, alongside the Fiat 500, Smart Fortwo and Scion iQ.

While the Spark is about 5 inches longer than a Fiat 500, it is over a foot shorter than the Sonic hatchback. Distinctive styling and an uprated 1.2L 4-cylinder engine will be hallmarks of the North American Spark, as will a 7-inch touch screen that can be integrated with the driver’s smartphone. Rather than offering expensive options like navigation, the screen will allow for phone-based navigation to be used.

The real question is how many Chevrolet can sell, and the company is non-committal with regards to sales prospects. One Chevrolet rep told Automotive News that the company hasn’t set a hard target, and one can easily read between the lines to get a real sense of how apprehensive Chevrolet is regarding the Spark. Oh ya – it comes in pink, too.


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BMW Planning “Neuer Elektro-Van” Prius V Competitor Fri, 27 Jan 2012 19:00:17 +0000

BMW is said to be planning a new minivan-esque competitor to the Toyota Prius V, dubbed the i5. We like the name given to it in the original Autobild story; Neuer Elektro-Van.

Given the gap between the diminutive i3 city car and the i8 sports car, the i5 seems like a logical bride between the two. Autobild’s rendering suggests that it won’t be a stodgy, van like vehicle, but a slightly enlarged 1-Series hatchback as far as looks go. The i5 should seat 5, and offer a 170 horsepower electric drivetrain. A 3-cylinder gasoline range extender is also said to be in the works.

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Weird Crush Update: Kia’s “Soulster” Is The Kia Ray Fri, 11 Nov 2011 17:15:46 +0000

TTAC readers have suffered through my weird crush on Kia’s Picanto/Morning-based “Tam” for months now, patiently indulging my fascination with a car that’s so niche it won’t even be sold in Europe. But with Kia showing off these production images of what will be known as the Kia Ray, it seems that a lot of what I found so beguiling about this A-segment MPV will make it to production. What we’re looking at is a tiny A-segment micro-van, with the Picanto/Morning‘s 1.0 three-banger or 1.25 liter four. And, as we suspected based on early prototype shots, the car has three standard doors and one mini-slider on the passenger side, confirming that this funky little cube is half Kia Soul, half Hyundai Veloster. At a little over $11k, the Ray will also be a relatively cheap Kia, which is why it’s focused on Asian markets like Korea and China… but it’s probably too small to ever make it to the US or Europe. Scion is probably breathing a small sigh of relief…

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Review: 2012 Fiat 500 Lounge (BCAS Edition) Mon, 31 Oct 2011 17:45:29 +0000

Throw “Sport” on a car, and I’m going to expect certain things from it. So I wasn’t kind to the first FIAT 500 I reviewed. But, as with people, I’m always willing to give a car a second take from a more amenable angle. To avoid bits I didn’t care for, I requested the base-level “Pop” trim with an automatic transmission. Chrysler counter-offered a top-level Lounge. In brown. With brown leather. Not quite what I asked for, but as a member of the Brown Car Appreciation Society (sans card, alas) I felt duty bound to accept.

Dip a 500 in Espresso Metallic and fit it with multi-spoke alloys (a $300 extra), and no one will think it an economy car. The look is as upscale as the Scion iQ’s is not. And this is before opening the door to find seats upholstered in chocolate brown leather, with matching trim on the doors and dash. The ivory steering wheel, upper seatbacks, and control panels provide a classy contrast while keeping the whole from seeming too serious or somber. Most definitely lounge-worthy.


Sadly, all parts of the 500 can’t deliver on this initial impression. Work the manual height adjuster in an attempt to lower the high-mounted seat, and the degree of flex suggests it’s not long for this world. Then again, the seat is so high in its lowest position that few people will ever use this adjuster. The buttons for the HVAC and audio feel very much like those of a sub-$20k car (even though this example wasn’t). Drive down any but the smoothest roads, and the doors constantly scratch against their seals. Perhaps press cars aren’t prepped as thoroughly as conventional wisdom suggests? A few dabs of a suitable lube might have gone a long way.

Thanks to the 500’s unsportily high seating position, the view forward is open. As is the view upward through the Lounge’s standard large fixed glass roof panel (much of the utility of the optional sunroof, without the rattles and leaks). The view rearward, not so much, as the B- and C-pillars are thick and close. But with so little car back there the Luxury Leather Package’s rear obstacle detection is nevertheless pointless. The driver-side spotter mirror is of much more use, enabling fear-free lane changes to the left, even if it does rob some scarce real estate within the mini-compact mirror pods. Whatever the trim level, the ergonomics are, well, Italian. The shifter remains too high and too far forward, but with the automatic this isn’t an issue. Despite the intimate interior, the logic-defying myriad small buttons for the BOSE audio system (thumping sub beneath the passenger seat) are just beyond reach. Would a few large knobs close at hand cramp the 500’s style? The “sport” button is close at hand, but all it does is bump the steering effort without reducing steering numbness and force the transmission to hold gears far too long for casual around-town use. We’re lounging this time around, so absolutely no need for this.

The Lounge’s seat is the same as the Sport’s, but with no clutch requiring frequent full leg extensions the overly prominent under-thigh bulge didn’t bother me. In fact, nothing really bothered me, though my diminutive rear seat occupants did complain about the car’s hard round headrests.

The 500’s 101-horsepower 1.4-liter engine was—surprise—no match for a Ford GT rapidly approaching in my rearview on I-75. Even with the rightmost pedal pressed hard to the floor there’s little thrust at highway speeds. Bill Ford’s supercharged supercar blew by without even realizing I was there. But up to 45 or so there’s easily adequate power. With the Lounge’s mandatory automatic I felt far less need to dispatch the engine anywhere near its redline (though the autobox is more than happy to take it there), and the MultiAir mill sounded much less thrashy as a result. The trip computer reported 33-35 MPG in the suburbs, dipping into the high 20s when my right foot lapsed out of lounge mode. Not bad, but at best a match for the most efficient cars one or two size classes up, despite FIAT’s highly touted throttle-less intake technology. Handling might not be sporty, but it is effortlessly pleasant. And the standard suspension delivers a livable ride, if still a bit choppy and bouncy.

Even if the FIAT 500 Lounge isn’t especially fun to drive, it is nevertheless thoroughly fun (when not hopelessly attempting to match pace with a supercar). The styling is engagingly cute (chics dig it) yet—in brown—also elegant. In Lounge form the car’s easygoing driving character fits. Pulling up to Trader Joe’s with my three chattering progeny, and tight on time, I announced, “All right you clowns, out of the clown car.” My youngest almost died from laughter in the parking lot. That was just the first of four stops on the weekly shopping expedition. Even with all seats occupied, my cargo anxiety heightened by what might well be the world’s smallest cargo cover, and some sale items bought by the dozen, everything fit with room to spare. In the $21,800 500 Lounge BCAS Edition, the entire experience seemed much less of a chore.

Fiat provided the vehicle, insurance and one tank of gas for this review.

Michael Karesh operates TrueDelta, an online source of automotive pricing and reliability data.

Whos that knockin at my door Goodbye BCAS 500 rear quarter 2 BCAS 500 rear quarter BCAS 500 interior BCAS 500 instrument panel BCAS 500 front quarter 2 BCAS 500 front quarter BCAS 500 front BCAS 500 cargo 500 view forward 500 instruments 500 engine ]]> 91
The Euro-Spark: Opel Goes Tiny Sat, 15 Oct 2011 19:22:07 +0000 Though the Chevrolet Spark has been in GM’s small-car spotlight this week, the firm’s Opel division is working hard on yet another tiny A-segment city car, tentatively known as the Junior or Allegra. Built on a shortened Opel Corsa platform, the Allegra will be a three-door, four-seat model targeted at the low end of the European market, at an estimated price of €10k. With a European debut targeted for the end of next year, Opel hopes to take the fight to the VW Up! And after it debuts, the smallest, cheapest Opel will become the home of an entirely new generation of small Opel-developed engines, with hybrid and EV versions rumored as well. Will it end up coming to the US as a Cadillac city car, as tipped by the recent ULC Concept? If gas prices go up, at least that option will be on the table…

Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail opelallegra4 opelallegra3 opelallegra1 opelallegra Molto Allegra! (courtesy: Auto Motor und Sport)


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Review: 2011 Chevrolet Spark 1.2 (Global-Spec) Fri, 12 Aug 2011 17:25:11 +0000

If you have a pulse and a willful ignorance of the local speed limit, you’re probably not interested in the Chevrolet Spark. If you’re a media-savvy hipster who’s on Facebook sixteen hours a day, you’re probably not interested in the Spark, either. If you’re a techno-geek or an eco-geek, you’re probably still not interested in the Chevrolet Spark.

If you need something to get you from point Alpha to point Beta and aren’t willing to pay too much, you might be interested in the Spark. But only after all the alternatives have been removed from your short-list as being too sensible. And even then, a lobotomy might be required to help you make up your mind.

That’s a shame, because the Spark isn’t really that bad.

The Spark competes in a super-mini class that’s largely ignored in the United States simply because of the lack of motorboat-towing power and decent-sized cupholders. The old Daewoo/Chevrolet Matiz that GM’s global division has been peddling around is even worse than the norm, with a cabin two sizes smaller than the competition and barstools stapled to the floor in lieu of actual car seats. Crash-safety is only noteworthy in the fact that at one time, it scored the infamous “zero stars” on the EuroNCAP tests.

The new Spark is a completely different vehicle. For one, it scores a commendable four stars on the EuroNCAP (missing the fifth for lack of stability control). Unfortunately, they’ve dumped the classic lines of the Guigaro-penned Matiz and replaced it with a deformed, head-shrunken Cruze.

Like the Cruze, it’s the roomiest in its class by a few hair-widths, with legroom more subcompact than super-mini. The seats are still two sizes too small, but they’re comfortable, at least. There’s enough trunk space for about a week’s worth of groceries, and cubbies for oodles of odds and ends. There are even cupholders big enough for Big Gulps.

The Spark tries to pull a Mini by having the instrument gauges mounted on the steering column, but the steering wheel obscures the top of the speedometer and the tiny digital tachometer doesn’t seem to sync up to the engine. The rest of the cabin is nice, though the body-colored trim is tackier than a Dodge Caliber’s. To note: the shiny black cladding around the side mirrors and the hidden rear door handles is pretty pitiful, even for Chevrolet.

On paper, the 1.2 liter engine provides more than enough power and acceleration to satisfy compact owners looking to downsize. Chevrolet claims a 0-62 time of 12.1 seconds. But in reality, you’d be lucky to get within a second of that time. It suffers from the same issues as the 1.8 Cruze, namely a lack of mid-range punch and a pronounced wheeziness near redline. The five speed manual gearbox is well-mated to the meagre power, but finding third is an adventure, hitting fifth is a chore, and finding reverse requires an instruction manual. The mix of rubbery shifter, short gear ratios and laggy tachometer makes overtaking on the highway more exciting than it really ought to be.

On to the good stuff: The Spark drives with some verve. The chassis balance is great, with good body control and composure. While understeer is the car’s default setting, the Spark responds well to throttle-lift and trail-braking. The turning circle is incredibly tight, yet a slow steering ratio keeps it from feeling darty at high speeds. Though it’s not quite Mazda2 keen, the steering wheel actually feels like it’s connected to the front tires, making for a relatively pleasant driving experience.

None of this comes at the expense of the ride, which is supple and absorbent. Even at speeds in excess of 80 mph, which is as fast as you can go without a tail-wind, the Spark feels as stable as a compact car, with minimal wind and road noise. I wish I could say the same about the engine, which sounds ready to explode at higher revs. Despite the mill’s shortcomings, it’s pretty economical, reaching 35-40 mpg in mixed driving. Not at 80 mph, obviously, but hey, you can’t have everything.

I won’t talk much about amenities and gadgets, because a lot can change by the official launch, sometime between now and the twelfth of never. Maybe GM is waiting for everyone to forget the Spark’s debut as the gold-toothed, jive-talking, racist-stereotype “Skids” in “Transformers”. Considering that this abomination of a movie marketing tie-ins has been immortalized in a line of even uglier toys, that may take a while.

Shame, as the Spark is a good little car with virtually no competitors on the US market. But the longer GM waits to release it, the more likely it is that the Spark’s Korean competitors will get there first and ruin the party for the spunky little Daewoo.

Storage... of sorts. twelve-hundred cubic centimeters... sounds better, right? Approved for the US market in 2012 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail Spark it up... Like A Rock? Real estate is tight... ]]> 80
Pre-Production Review: Scion iQ Mon, 08 Aug 2011 19:15:55 +0000

It will come as no surprise to regular TTAC readers when I say that Scion has had some sales issues lately. But instead of euthanizing the brand as some on TTAC have suggested, Toyota has decided to take a different route. Thankfully, rather than creating more me-too models based off of US-market Toyotas, the plan includes some JDM/Euro models and the much anticipated “Toyobaru “sports car. The first object of foreign desire landing stateside to start off Scion’s resurrection is the Toyota iQ micro-car. The iQ should be in showrooms across the country soon, but does Scion have the IQ to make a smarter Smart?

The problem with the Smart ForTwo isn’t really the car itself, it’s not Penske (the former Smart distributer), and it’s not even parent company Mercedes’s on-and-off waffling relationship with microcars in America. The problem with the Smart car is that all the other cars on the market exist. I learnt this the hard way back in 2007 when I put a $99 deposit down on a Smart ForTwo Cabriolet. The months waiting for my precious pregnant roller-skate to arrive only fueled the flames of desire for the car only Europeans were allowed to buy. Unfortunately when the car arrived the novelty had worn off due to the anemic engine, steep pricing, lack of features and a dumb-witted automated manual transmission. When Toyota said they were bringing their micro car stateside I was suitably concerned yet strangely intrigued, as a result I could not resist an invite to Seattle to see the latest diminutive people-mover.

Numbers are important with small cars, so with measuring tape in hand let’s explore. The iQ is 14-inches longer and just under 5-inches wider than the US market ForTwo (10-feet long and 66-inches wide) making it not only the smallest four-seater in the US but in the world. For anyone counting, the iQ is considerably smaller than the former (or planned) Smart ForFour or even the Mini Cooper. Lilliputian-car lovers rejoice: the iQ is still small. Strangely however, the increased dimensions pay much larger dividends than you would expect due to packaging and the funky layout.

The Smart’s rear-engine layout hurts the tiny car’s space efficiency compared to the front-engine iQ. How can this be? Well, the radiator and other support systems, steering rack, etc. are all still under the miniature hood while cargo space is restricted by the ending in the rear. The iQ engineers on the other hand found ways to repackage everything to use less space. The steering rack sits nearly above the engine, the differential was relocated and compacted, pushing the front wheels in front of, rather than behind the engine and barely behind the bumper cover. Inside, the glove box was deleted and the HVAC unit went on a diet combining massively reduced pluming, a tiny air handler and miniaturized bits-and-bobs jammed entirely behind center console. This means the front passenger compartment could be shifted forward into the void where these systems would normally live. By shifting the front passenger noticeably ahead of the driver, you can actually fit a 6-foot-tall passenger in front, a 6-foot-tall passenger in the rear, a 6-foot-tall driver behind the wheel and a small child or a small amount of shopping behind the driver. That’s what Toyota means by 3+1.

While it is technically a four-seater, my experience stuffing journalists into the car and driving around Seattle can be summed up this way: it can carry two in comfort, three acceptably, four in a pinch. I was actually able to drive the iQ while a 6-foot-tall person sat behind me. It wasn’t awful, but I wouldn’t want to take a road trip that way. Cabin width is not an issue as the iQ is actually wider than Yaris or Corolla and this makes the iQ far less claustrophobic than a Smart. You would think the addition of extra seats would result in lost legroom upfront vs the Smart but you would be wrong. In reality the iQ possesses 3/10ths of an inch less legroom than the ForTwo in front, while adding 28.6 inches of legroom in the rear. The math whizzes in the crowd will notice that 28.6 inches of rear legroom come with an increased overall length of only 14-inches vs the Smart how’s that for IQ?

Those 2.5 passengers will at least be happy spending time inside the iQ as the diminutive people mover possesses better quality bits than most Toyota products in recent memory. (They are certainly better than Versa, which may be a strange comparison, but I was just here in Seattle for that launch, so there you go.) Most interior surfaces that you will touch are covered in a thin soft-effect plastic that is miles ahead of more expensive Toyota products like the Prius or Sienna. The integrated front-seat headrests are functional but strike me as being a tad out of place as the rears are adjustable. The loss of a glovebox (sacrificed in the name of space efficiency) may be a problem for some, but you can opt for a flimsy tub on questionable rails under the passenger seat as a substitute.

All iQ models get a standard flat-bottomed steering wheel wrapped in soft leather which I have to say is the of the best steering wheels I have had my hands on lately. With every high must come a low; I found the new “joystick” controls for the audio system a pain to use. Speaking of audio systems, Scion continues to take a novel approach on this front. All Scion models are shipped to our shores radio-free and the radio or nav system of your choice can be inserted at the dock or dealer. Fail to tick an optional head unit box and you’ll get the standard Pioneer system which includes HD radio, CD player, Bluetooth (for phone and streaming audio), iPod/USB control, AUX input and four Pioneer speakers. Stepping up to the 200-watt premium audio box gets you a 5.8-inch LCD with iTunes tagging, Pandora connectivity (via a smartphone) and RCA preamp outputs. Should money be no object, you can step way-up to the $1999 Scion Navigation System 200 which is basically the Scion version of the Toyota/Lexus navigation system in everything from the Camry to the LS600. While I find the Toyota/Lexus/Scion nav system easy to use, snappy and well featured, $2000 represents a whopping 13% increase in the price of the car just by selecting this one option. Ouch. Another oddity is the total lack of cruise control, optional or otherwise. As a city car it makes sense I suppose, but it is a nicety I’d still like to have.

Under the tiny hood beats a 1.3L four-cylinder (1NR-FE) engine, brand new for the iQ and for Toyota churning out 94 HP at a lofty 6,000 RPM and 89 lb-ft of twist at 4,400 RPM. I had hoped to see perhaps a diminutive 3-cylinder turbo or perhaps a direct injection engine, but Toyota has decided to go for the tried-and true multi-point electronic injection pioneered last century. Despite high compression of 11.5:1 only regular unleaded is required. Power is put to the ground via a new CVT making the iQ the only Toyota non-hybrid CVT product on these shores. I can’t help another Smart comparison here: the ForTwo’s automated manual shifts like a drunk 12 year old driving daddy’s John Deere, the iQ’s CVT on the other hand likes to rev the nuts off the little 1.3L engine, but at least it is smooth in the process. Pitted against the 2127lb curb weight of the US spec iQ, acceleration is neither swift nor slow but in the same realm as a Prius at an observed 10.52 seconds to 60 (0-60 quoted 11.8) keen observers will note this is considerably faster than the Smart.

The EPA has crowned the iQ with the highest combined economy for any non-hybrid in the US at 36/37/37 (City/Highway/Combined EPA 2008). During my short 105-mile stint with the car on three separate driving routes around town, I averaged 32.1, 37.2 and 49.1MPG on two city routes and one 25-mile highway run.

The safety conscious in the crowd will no doubt be concerned about driving around in a car the size of a high-top trainer. To allay these fears, Toyota has jammed 11 airbags into the iQ including front airbags, knee airbags, side curtain airbags, front thorax bags, a rear window airbag to shield passengers from a tall vehicle impacting your hind end, and finally in-seat airbags to prevent the driver and front passenger “submarining” under lap belts in a rear collision. I don’t know about you, but I want to see video footage of all those bags going off simultaneously.

Starting in December on the west coast and working its way across the country, expect the iQ to slip into dealers with a base MSRP of $15,256 plus destination of $730. Included in the price is scheduled maintenance for 2 years/25,000 miles and 3 years of roadside assistance (mostly because there is no spare). Toyota expects sales to be substantially similar to the xB and xD (20,364 and 10,110 respectively in 2010). Seeing as Smart managed to con 14,595 people in 2009 and 5,927 in 2010 into buying a fairly awkward little car, Scion’s low end sales forecast seems totally achievable. When it does land in a dealer near you the usual bevy of Scion accessories will be available including lowering springs, wheels, sway bars, fog lights, etc. One of our Facebook followers asked us if installing lowering springs would result in lowering the driver’s iQ. You’ll have to check back for the full review of the production model for the answer as well as comparisons to the Mini and 500.

Click here to view the embedded video.

Toyota flew me up to Seattle, put me up in a swanky hotel and stuffed me full of wine and food for this review.

0-30: 3.906 Seconds

0-60: 10.52 Seconds

1/4 Mile: 18.05 Seconds @ 73.6MPH

IMG_3492 IMG_3505 IMG_3487 IMG_3459 IMG_3491 IMG_3490 IMG_3501 IMG_3502 IMG_3489 IMG_3511 IMG_3461 IMG_3480 IMG_3503 IMG_3471 IMG_3509 IMG_3485 IMG_3507 IMG_3495 IMG_3482 IMG_3497 IMG_3477 Smarter than Smart? IMG_3481 IMG_3508 IMG_3499 IMG_3462 IMG_3472 IMG_3454 IMG_3500 IMG_3483 IMG_3478 IMG_3453 IMG_3479 IMG_3484 IMG_3466 IMG_3463 IMG_3457 IMG_3516 IMG_3469 IMG_3467 IMG_3464 IMG_3465 IMG_3458 IMG_3486 Zemanta Related Posts Thumbnail IMG_3513 IMG_3488 IMG_3460 IMG_3493 IMG_3498

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: McLaren F1 Meets Smart Roadster Edition Wed, 29 Jun 2011 14:39:04 +0000

When asked by if he preferred to drive his McLaren F1 or Mclaren-Mercedes SLR to work everyday, the man who designed both legendary hypercars, Gordon Murray demurs:

I wouldn’t say the SLR is quite an everyday car but I certainly like to drive it to work. But for me, despite all those cars and my single-seater Rocket [a car he privately designed], it’s the [eight year-old Smart Roadster] I’m most taken with. For one, it’s a great-looking car. It has a power roof, heated seats and air con, and it all weighs just 830kg. In fact, it’s got all you’d want from a car. It nips around corners and it’s fun to drive.

So, other than proving that Murray has exquisite taste (I’d kill you all for a Brabus Smart Roadster Coupe), what’s the point? That, having been there and done that in the world of high performance, Murray’s taking on a less obviously sexy but ultimately significant project that first occurred to him in a traffic jam back in 1993: the T.25 and T.27 city cars. We’ve written about Murray’s T.25 before, but the real news today is the release of specs for the T.27, an all-electric version of the tiny three-seater. And yes, it weighs 1,500 lbs on the nose (including batteries), and ekes 100 miles of range out of just 12 kWh. That beats the efficiency of competitors like the Smart EV (by 29%), the Mitsubishi iMiEV (by 36%) and MINI E (by 86%). So, how does it do it?

The lightweight body is just one part of the equation, allowing not only high efficiency, but also a radically low-energy, low-capital assembly technique called iStream, which does away with the steel stamping-based manufacturing process that has dominated automaking since Henry Ford. Murray explains the process in the video above, clarifying that his firm is not interested in actually manufacturing these vehicles, but that they are talking to other firms who might be interested in licensing the iStream process and building the T.25 and T.27.

But one of the most fascinating developments that keeps the T.27 so light and efficient is its drivetrain, which was developed by a British firm called Zytek. GreenCarCongress explains some of the most salient features:

Minimizing the torque requirement of the motor (to allow it to be smaller, lighter and more efficient) while maintaining vehicle performance, requires a high motor speed. Zytek analyzed a wide variety of motor topologies and designs using 2D and 3D simulation tools, leading to a reliable maximum motor speed of 14,500 rpm. This high operating speed allowed motor torque to be reduced to 64 N·m (47 lb-ft) while maintaining vehicle based performance targets.

The peak motor power of 25 kW (available for 30 seconds) means vehicle performance is maintained in all expected usage conditions.

The second major powertrain component is the three-phase inverter. Zytek concluded that the inverter should also combine battery charging and high-voltage switching capabilities. This has the added benefit of reducing the weight of high-current copper cable and also avoiding any reliability issues associated with use of high voltage connectors.

The total weight of the motor, inverter and gearbox is less than 50 kg (110 lbs), approximately 45% of that of a comparative, current production, water-cooled drivetrain with its associated radiator, cooling fluid, pumps etc. This light weight contributes to the low overall vehicle weight while the highly compact size means that luggage space can be increased compared to the regular internal combustion engined vehicle.

Gordon Murray has long compared his T.25 project with his other great accomplishment, the McLaren F1, arguing that building this kind of tiny, efficient and affordable (estimated cost: $9k for the gas-powered T.25 and about double that for the electric T.27) car requires the same kind of innovative thinking, only the task is made even more challenging by the absence of unlimited budgets and the need for creature comfort. With the T.27′s tiny powerplant, it’s radical front-hinging door, unique manufacturing process (said to require 10% of the startup capital of a typical auto plant), and all-round funky uniqueness, the Murray City Car is proof that the coolest cars need not be limited to the insanely wealthy. An argument, in fact, that the Smart Roadster once made in a slightly less convincing manner. Now the question seems to be: who’s going to build this thing?

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: The Cimmaron Of The Future Edition Wed, 17 Nov 2010 16:46:20 +0000

According to a recent projection, GM will be selling over 2m vehicles on its Gamma (Aveo) platform by 2016… and thanks to Cadillac’s Urban Luxury Concept, we know what the most profitable iteration of that platform could look like. Yes, it’s the new-wave Cimarron of the future, inspired by such pedigreed city-car competitors as the Aston-Martin Cygnet and the Bugatti Petit Sport Sang de Navet. And with Lambo doors and a grille that would put a crunk rapper to shame, the littlest Caddy certainly does everything it can to distract from its humble (presumably budget Korean hatchback) roots.  Because, as lead designer Frank Saucedo puts it

There is no minimum size for a Cadillac driving experience.

But there is a minimum volume per platform target… and the importance of this metric almost guarantees that, in some way or another, the Cimarron will ride again.

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With Car Brands Targeting Scooter Sales, Piaggio Bites Back Thu, 04 Nov 2010 16:42:15 +0000

The need to expand automotive brands while improving fuel economy is driving automakers to some interesting lengths of late. From GM future concepts that have more in common with a Segway than a Cruze, to Honda’s U-3X and Chrysler’s ill-fated PeaPod, automakers are sending strong hints that the future will be smaller and decidedly less car-like. And MINI and Smart recently took this trend to its logical conclusion, each announcing that they would build (or, more precisely, re-brand) scooters… or as they call them, “alternative mobility concepts.” Which raises the question: what’s a scooter brand to do? Well, Piaggio, maker of the Vespa and other scooter-based “alternative mobility concepts” isn’t going to just drone off into that good night, and it’s fighting back by creating an “alternative” to its core scooter products: a four wheeled car-like “mobility concept.”

Autocar reports that the Piaggio Ape-based NT-3 was unveiled at the Milan Motorcycle Show (and hey, MINI and Smart showed their scooters at the Paris Auto Show, so who’s to judge?), as a future Tata Nano-fighter. The three-seater, 300cc city car is being targeted at the Indian market, with production planned for the 2013 timeframe. But they’d better get a move on before their core scooter business gets eaten up by auto brands with nothing better to do.

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Murray T.25 City Car Caught Testing Mon, 26 Apr 2010 15:00:43 +0000 What happens when the man behind the McLaren F1 decides to chuck in the go-fast nonsense and devote his considerable energies towards developing a “revolutionary” city car? You’re looking at it. Autocar caught this first image of Gordon Murray‘s three-seat T.25 testing in the UK, and from the looks of it, all the talk of this car creating a new segment wasn’t just talk. We knew it was going to be small, but my god is it ever small. And, as Autocar reports, this first image of the T.25′s near-production look shows off one of its most distinctive features:

Our exclusive photograph shows the car’s compact dimensions and reveals the revolutionary single door for the first time. It swings upwards and forwards to allow cabin access for all three occupants.

That’s right, a swinging single-door design, and Mclaren F1-style “arrowhead” seating. What did you expect, a rebadged Toyota iQ?

Not that the T.25 is being designed to be flashy or sporty. The single-door design is likely a result of the iStream production system, which Murray designed in parallel with the T.25. With an emphasis on efficiency and flexibility, the iStream process will be used to assemble the T.25, starting with a complete chassis, and adding pre-painted body components. Murray’s vision is for a single factory to be able to produce near-infinite variations of body styles and powertrains on a single chassis, allowing the vehicle to evolve with changing energy technologies. And part of that vision means the T.25 has to be light: under 1,400 lbs, according to Autocar.

Murray’s utopian vision of an endlessly variable, iconic city car has to start somewhere though, and this body matched to a 1.0 liter, 3-cylinder engine is going to be the point of entry. With such a light body though, Murray promises the T.25 will boast a better power-to-weight ratio than the average “two litre luxury saloon.” Whether that holds up with the full compliment of three passengers and two “large suitcases” remains to be seen, but the T.25′s appeal isn’t going to based on performance alone.

Clearly inspired by London’s infamous congestion, Murray has designed the T.25 to fit two-abreast into UK traffic lanes, theoretically reducing congestion provided enough are on the road. In fact, he says he designed it with congestion foremost in his mind; emissions benefits, he says, were almost an afterthought. And what’s more exciting, trying to drive a supercar in speed camera-crazed Britain, or wondering if the car next to you is going to stay in his half of the lane?

Murray wants to start selling T.25′s in two years, and will likely be showing variant body styles sometime next year. Meanwhile, development is already underway on the T.27 EV version, with help from a $14m grant from the government-backed Technology Strategy Board. But Murray likely won’t bring T.25s to the mass market himself: he’s hinted that he’d prefer to license iStream plants near major metropolitan centers around the world. How exactly that will pan out is still very much an open question, but the sheer ambition of the project makes it impossible to ignore. Especially from a guy of Murray’s talent. Decades after the F1 was built, it’s still a force to be reckoned with. Where could this tiny, one-door wonder end up?

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What’s Wrong With This Picture: When Do We Get A Zagato Version? Edition Wed, 16 Dec 2009 14:52:29 +0000 Oy! (courtesy:Autocar)

The Aston Martin Cygnet: because the auto industry just isn’t surreal enough these days. For its next trick, the Aston Martin grille will be appearing on a Corolla. Is there a photoshopper in the house?

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