• Frankfurt preview: Honda Civic Tourer Active Life concept

    September 10, 2015

    Honda has announced it will travel to next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show to introduce a concept called Civic Tourer Active Life.

    As its name implies, the Japanese car maker’s next concept is based on the Civic Tourer station wagon that’s sold in Europe and in a handful of other global markets. Outside, the Active Life only stands out from its regular-production counterpart thanks to a concept-specific aerodynamic roof box, black 18-inch alloy wheels and a three-tone white, black and blue paint job.

    The story is different on the inside, where Honda designers have tossed out the rear bench and installed a clever swiveling rack that can hold up to two bicycles. Compartments built into the side panels let cyclists store water bottles and tools, and the wagon can be turned into a mobile workshop thanks to a light built into the trunk lid, an air pump and a retractable bench.

    Power comes from a stock 1.6-liter four-cylinder turbodiesel engine that makes 120 horsepower and 221 lb-ft. of torque. Linked to a manual transmission, the oil-burner send the wagon from zero to 62 mph in 10.1 seconds.

    Honda has not revealed what the future holds for the Civic Tourer Active Life concept. In Frankfurt, it will be on display next to the wild 2&4 concept that was unveiled earlier this week.

  • Frankfurt preview: 2016 Renault Megane

    September 10, 2015
    Renault has introduced the fourth-generation Megane ahead of its public debut at next week’s Frankfurt Motor Show.

    Aimed right at the Volkswagen Golf, the Megane compact has been one of the best-selling members of the Renault lineup for nearly two decades. The fourth-gen model gets a more evocative front end that’s characterized by sharp headlights, LED daytime running lights that stretch well into the bumper and a four-slat radiator grille with an oversized Renault emblem.

    The design is noticeably inspired by the Talisman, a Passat-fighting sedan that will also be presented in Frankfurt next week. The Megane is lower and slightly wider than the current model, but its overall proportions don’t change drastically.

    Renault will introduce its newest compact as a four-door hatchback. A station wagon will follow shortly after, but whether the two-door hatchback and the convertible variants will be replaced is anyone’s guess at this point. The segments they compete in are steadily shrinking, and Renault’s competitors have been progressively axing compact two-door hatchbacks and convertibles over the past few years.

    Technical details haven’t been announced yet, but it’s safe to bet the Megane will launch with three- and four-cylinder gasoline- and diesel-burning engines borrowed from the Renault-Nissan parts bin. A more aggressive-looking GT model will sit at the top of the range until a full-blown Renaultsport-tuned model is launched.

    The all-new Renault Megane will go on sale across Europe and in a host of other global markets before the end of the year. Pricing information will be published in the weeks leading up to its on-sale date.

  • Kia Spectra faces investigation over airbag glitch

    September 10, 2015
    Kia’s retired Spectra faces a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation into reports of airbag problems.

    The agency has received at least 43 complaints alleging malfunction of the front passenger occupant classification system, which determines if an adult or a small child is sitting in the seat. Owners report illumination of the SRS warning light, or a trouble code related to the OCS sensor mat under the seat cushion.

    The NHTSA warns that a malfunctioning OCS sensor can either suppress the airbag when an adult is in the seat, or fail to suppress the airbag when a child or small adult is in the seat. In either case, passengers face a potential higher risk of injury in an accident.

    The investigation is focused on Spectra sedans and hatchbacks from the 2007-2009 model years. The Spectra has been off the market since 2009, when it was succeeded by the Forte. Some owners have voiced frustration over the out-of-warranty repair costs.

    “[The dealership] wanted to charge me about $2,000 because my vehicle is no longer under warranty,” one complaint claims. Other reports point to repair estimates between $1,300 and $1,900 for a new seat, discouraging owners from having the vehicle fixed.

    The NHTSA is now investigating the reports to determine if a recall is warranted.

  • Hyundai shows redesigned Elantra for Korea

    September 10, 2015

    Hyundai has revealed a redesigned Elantra for domestic buyers in South Korea, where the model is known as the Avente.

    The sedan’s exterior has features an evolution of Hyundai’s Fluidic Sculpture design language, adding a large hexagonal grille and thinner headlights. The modernized front fascia also benefits from smaller LED fog lights for certain trim levels.

    The rear end also receives a few modest enhancements, with fresh taillights and a slightly reshaped bumper. New alloy wheels complement the revamped body styling and wider stance, and customers will be able to choose from 10 color options.

    The next-generation model establishes a larger footprint than the current model, lengthened by 0.8 inches and widened by approximately one inch. It is also slightly taller, while the wheelbase remains unchanged.

    Occupants are greeted by a refined interior, designed with a focus on improved ergonomics and high-quality materials. Control buttons have been reconfigured, while the instrument panel layout promises to be more intuitive.

    Engineers have added 32 percent more high-strength steel to improve both safety and structural rigidity. Hyundai claims the suspension geometry brings improved ride quality and handling, with better feedback from the power-steering system.

    The KDM-spec Elantra is powered by three different engines, ranging from a 1.6-liter gasoline burner with 130 horsepower to a 2.0-liter Atkinson-cycle mill with 147 ponies. US buyers will likely be presented with different options, however, potentially with a more powerful turbocharged engine for top trim levels.

    Hyundai is expected to unveil the US-bound model in November at the Los Angeles auto show.

  • Lotus 3-Eleven aims for 7min Nurburgring lap

    September 10, 2015
    Lotus has highlighted the Nurburgring testing process for its fastest-ever road car, the new 3-Eleven.

    The company spent two weeks testing at the Nordschleife circuit, covering a collective distance of more than 2,000 km (1,243 miles). Unfortunately there were other vehicles on the track at the same time, but the car’s data-logging system recorded a total lap time of seven minutes and six seconds, combining the quickest sector times during the fastest two laps.

    “I can say that the 3-Eleven is the perfect car for a fast lap here. It is so sharp and so focussed; a true weapon!” said Lotus driver Marc Basseng. “This was proven in the sector times set and I’m sure, with the track completely to itself, the car could push towards a 7min flat lap time.”

    The 3-Eleven is the most powerful road car in Lotus’ lineup, boasting 450 horsepower from its supercharged V6 powerplant. Consistent with the company’s “faster and lighter” mantra, it is also features composite body panels and an open-top body to keep weight down.

    “We’ve always said that to make a car faster you must make it lighter and this new car carries that philosophy to a new level,” said Lotus chief Jean-Marc Gales. “The 3-Eleven achieved one of the fastest ever lap times around the Nürburgring for any class of car and faster than many other supercars.”

    The company will have to wait if it wants to set an official time at the Green Hell, as track management is still restricting speeds through certain sections due to a spectator death. Speed limits will eventually be lifted, but not before several sections are resurfaced and more spectator protections are installed.

    Live images by Ben Hsu.