• Refreshed Kia Rio unveiled in Paris

    October 5, 2014

    Kia has introduced a refreshed Rio hatchback at the Paris Motor Show. The entry level subcompact now sports an aggressive new visage and an updated interior.

    While the sedan variant is not offered in most European countries, the changes to the five-door hatchback form shown in Paris will likely transfer to the sedan version as well. In addition, European customers can choose a three-door hatch as well.

    The most dramatic visual change is a sportier, three-section lower grille and fog lamp housings, replacing the current car’s wide graphic that spans the width of the front. The fog lamps now also have wing-like slats that evoke racing canards. A slimmer “tiger nose” grille and cleaner, redesigned headlights give the face a pleasing and fresh new look.

    Three new alloy wheels can be ordered, ranging in size from 15 to 17 inches. A new rear bumper with a wide blacked out graphic is stylishly framed by C-shaped reflectors.

    While four engine options, from 74 to 108 hp, can be had in Europe, the US will likely retain the sole 1.6-liter, 138 hp inline-four currently available. A fuel-saving start/stop system is available across the board on European spec models.

    Cabin-wise, the refresh adds chrome accents around the vents and buttons on either side of the infotainment screen, but otherwise it remains largely the same as the current interior.

    The updated Rio will be rolled out across various European markets in 2015.

  • Tesla to announce autonomous driving tech?

    October 5, 2014

    The mysterious Tesla “D” teased by CEO Elon Musk earlier this week could be a move towards autonomous driving. Speculation of the upstart electric car company’s next move is coming in fast and furious ahead of a press conference scheduled for October 9.

    It didn’t take long after Musk revealed the “D” moniker on Twitter for internet sleuths to uncover a photo of a Tesla Model S P85D caught during testing. In this case, the D would appear to point to a dual motor, all wheel drive setup. With that reveal likely spoiled, the company still had another promised announcement for the 9th.

    However, a new report by Bloomberg indicates that advanced lane-keeping and self-driving features are also in the works. Director of Global Communications Simon Sproule confirmed that the factory has already been building Model S cars with forward-facing cameras for the past month.

    In July Sproule also confirmed, as reported by Motley Fool, that it had been working closely with Mobileye, an developer of autonomous driving technology. In the same piece, Musk also estimated that automated highway driving would be possible within a year’s time, from “entrance ramp to exit ramp.” Musk also said that radar sensors were too complex, favoring optical input like cameras.

    Mainstream automakers such as Audi, Mercedes-Benz, Nissan and Honda have developed autonomous driving prototypes already. Earlier this year another Silicon Valley giant, Google, also revealed a self-driving car.

    Tesla shares jumped up 5 percent on the news of the new model.

  • Hyundai preparing 250-horsepower hot hatch

    October 5, 2014
    Hyundai has confirmed it is in the early stages of developing a more powerful version of the new i20 subcompact hatchback that bowed in Paris earlier this week.

    Called i20 N, the hot hatch will be powered by an evolution of the 1.6-liter direct-injected turbo four found under the hood of the Veloster Turbo but its output will be bumped to at least 250 horsepower. What transmission the i20 N will be fitted with and whether it will feature front- or all-wheel drive is up in the air.

    Australian website Motoring reports Hyundai will use knowledge gleaned from its WRC program to completely re-engineer the i20′s chassis in order to help it cope with the extra power. A sport-tuned suspension and upgraded brakes on all four corners will keep the cavalry in check.

    As expected, the i20 N will look considerably more aggressive than its more humble sibling. Hyundai has not revealed if the N will be based on the four-door model or the sportier two-door coupe that will be introduced in the next few months.

    The Hyundai i20 N could be shown to the public for the first time at the 2015 edition of the Frankfurt Motor Show. When it lands, it will fight head-to-head against the 220-horsepower Volkswagen Polo R and the Ford Fiesta ST.

    At the time of writing Hyundai is not planning on offering a similar hot hatch in the United States.

    Photos by Drew Johnson.

  • Ferrari rules out expansion

    October 5, 2014
    Putting an end to a long-standing rumor, outgoing Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo has confirmed Ferrari will not cahse volume by building a four-door sedan or a SUV.

    “[Sergio] Marchionne wanted to build a truck but I talked him out of it,” explained di Montezemolo in an interview with British magazine Autocar. “Ferrari will continue to make two-door sports cars, not SUVs or four-door cars.”

    Di Montezemolo recently announced plans to step down from Ferrari after spending 23 years at the helm of the automaker. He will be replaced by Fiat – Chrysler CEO Sergio Marchionne on October 13th, and recent reports indicated one of the executive’s first moves at the head of Ferrari would be to boost production in order to make more money and keep up with rivals like Porsche.

    In a separate interview, Marchionne shot down the rumors and said Ferrari production will remain steady at a little over 7,000 cars in the foreseeable future. He also denied claims that Ferrari will be fully integrated into the newly-formed Fiat-Chrysler Automobile (FAC) group.

    “The mixing of their blood would be fatal to both,” explained Marchionne.

    While Ferrari will not merge with FCA, the Modena-based company will help Fiat-owned Alfa Romeo design a full-fledged lineup of models that will include sedans, crossovers and coupes.