Thursday, January 2, 2014
Year of the Horsepower: 12 Fun-to-Drive Cars to Expect in 2014
Happy New Year! It’s now officially 2014—the year of the horse. And like that graceful animal known for its speed and agility, this year is bound to be filled with new and exciting cars for every budget. Though car manufacturers are known to be tight-lipped about their whole-year plans, we just had to peer into our magic crystal ball to give you 12 fun-to-drive cars in 2014.
# 1: BMW X5
The BMW X5 is set to enter the third generation and like its predecessors; it aims to set new standards for luxury, versatility, and above all, driving dynamics. Several engines, designed for both thrust and efficiency from a 3.0-liter TwinPower Turbo inline-6 (both in diesel and gasoline) to a 4.4-liter TwinPower Turbo V8, power the new X5 while a close-ratio 8-speed automatic guarantees a smooth response. Several new features debut on the X5 including Active Roll Stabilization, Dynamic Damper Control, and rear-axle air suspension for improved handling. Inside, the X5 receives two distinct BMW Lines packages. The biggest news of all is the availability of a rear-wheel drive variant dubbed the X5 sDrive.
# 2: Ford Ecosport
Designed to marry the agility, affordability, and fuel efficiency of a compact with the flexibility and spaciousness of an SUV, the Ford EcoSport is seen as the aspirational alternative to a typical sedan. It rides on the same platform as the Fiesta and shares roughly 30 percent of its components, but it looks muscular and athletic complete with a 200-mm ground clearance and 550-mm of water wading depth—higher than some “hardcore SUVs”. Running on the Fiesta’s 1.5-liter Ti-VCT engine, the 108 horsepower EcoSport comes with either a 5-speed manual or a 6-speed PowerShift transmission. Inside, it’s sophisticated and well-equipped: push-button engine start/stop, Ford SYNC, and even a chilled glove box.
#3: Honda Accord
Designed from the inside out, the new Accord embraces a customer-focused design allowing for increased passenger and cargo space as well as a sportier driving character. Better, but no bigger, the new Accord is shorter but roomier than the model it replaces. It features a dynamic new design with a bold grille, strong character lines, and tapered rear fenders. This 9th-generation model also uses more high-strength steel than ever before for better handling and comfort. The front Double Wishbone is now gone, replaced by new MacPherson Struts. All-new engines, dubbed Earth Dreams make their debut. On some models, the Accord should be made available with Honda’s new suite of safety systems including collision mitigation braking and blind spot monitoring.
#4: Hyundai Accent, Elantra, and Tucson
Hyundai enters the new year by sprinkling some much needed refresh magic onto the Accent, Elantra, and Tucson. All three models receive modest revisions inside and out. Outside, all three models receive updated headlights, bumpers, tail lights, and wheel designs. The story continues inside the cockpit where new gauges, improved interior materials, and better NVH isolation make for a much more comfortable experience. Mechanically, little change is expected with the exception of the Accent which finally adds a 1.6-liter CRDi sedan to its line-up. Worldwide though, Hyundai is close to launching their new Fluidic Sculpture 2.0 design language in the all-new Genesis Sedan and Sonata. These two new upscale models may make a possible appearance locally later in the year.
#5: Kia Soul
The funky Kia Soul enters with an all-new take on design, improved driving dynamics, and features to keep it fresh and, well, different than the rest. Designed in California, the Soul is boxy with its upright stance, squared shoulders, and distinctive fender flares. It comes in a wide palette of colors too. Riding on a longer and wider platform than the vehicle it replaces, the Soul promises more room than ever before. The body and chassis are now 29 percent stiffer improving the ride and comfort. Steering feel is enhanced through the new FlexSteer system. Motivation comes from either a 1.6-liter or a 2.0-liter 4-cylinder engine, hopefully boasting Kia’s new Gasoline Direct Injection or GDI technology.
#6: Lexus RC Coupe
Lexus’s first two-door coupe since the LFA, the RC Coupe brings to life Lexus’s promise to focus more on design and emotional appeal. The RC Coupe features deeply contoured lines with L-shaped patterns in the headlights and tail lamps giving a sense of visual drama. It features the widest and lowest application of the spindle grille yet while 19-inch wheels and tires add elegance and sophistication. Inside, the RC Coupe has a driver-centric interior with two distinct zones: operational and display. Genuine shimamoku wood highlights adding a unique Japanese touch. The RC Coupe’s dedicated rear-wheel drive platform and 3.5-liter V6, with at least 300 horsepower, promises exhilarating performance.
Mazda finally brings its brand of style to the compact car class with the all-new Mazda3. “All-new” is an understatement since it shares almost nothing with the outgoing 3. It features all-new Skyactiv engines in 1.5- or 2.0-liter flavors mated to either a 6-speed manual or 6-speed automatic. The all-new 3 sits on a platform giving it a longer wheelbase. A shorter length and lower height still imbues the 3 with a sense of sportiness. The body features a decisively “cab rearward” posture and together with its sleek and stylish KODO lines, it expresses dynamism. Inside, the 3’s cabin is driver-centric and includes Mazda-first features such as a heads-up display system called Active Driving Display.
#8: Mercedes-Benz C-Class
Single-handedly Mercedes-Benz’s most sellable model, the all-new C-Class promises to be the company’s most sensual design yet and fitted with a host of new technical innovations to keep it in the lead. Riding on a new platform, it’s bigger and roomier than before yet weighs some 70 kilograms less. The exterior design is Mercedes-Benz’s interpretation of “modern luxury” and has the same swoopy, complex lines seen of late. Inside, it borrows a page from the company’s sports car line with a high center tunnel and circular air vents. Under the hood, it has a wide range of engine: 3 diesel engines and 5 gasoline engines with power figures ranging from 115 to 333 horsepower.
#9: Peugeot 208 GTi
Recreating an icon—that’s the goal of the Peugeot 208 GTi, a B-segment sized hatchback that packs a serious sports car punch. It eschews more modern sports car tech and goes back to basics: it’s available solely as a 6-speed manual. The 3-door hatchback features Peugeot’s new look but is liberally sprinkled with red highlights and ‘GTi’ badging to differentiate it from ‘lesser’ models. Inside, the 208 GTi has a small diameter D-shaped steering wheel and sport bucket seats. The 208 GTi is powered by a 1.6-liter turbocharged engine good for an even 200 horsepower. Add a lightweight body and you’ve got a recipe for some fun. The 208 GTi can do 0-100 km/h in 6.7 seconds.
#10: Subaru WRX
Subaru’s iconic sports sedan returns and promises to be the best handling, most powerful WRX ever. With an all-new 2.0-liter turbocharged Boxer engine, the WRX has 268 horsepower and 350 Nm of torque equating to a 0-100 km/h time in just 5.1 seconds. It can be combined with either a 6-speed manual or a Sport Lineartronic CVT—both firsts for the WRX. It rides on its own unique platform that’s stiffer for better handling. Further elevating the WRX is a Torque Vectoring Control system that improves cornering speeds while upgraded brakes provide surefooted stopping power. The WRX features Subaru’s iconic flared wheel arches, quad-tip tailpipes, and a lip spoiler to give it a hit of aggressiveness.
#11: Toyota Corolla Altis
Perhaps one of the most anticipated new cars for 2014, the all-new Corolla Altis is now injected with the same “fun-to-drive” characteristics seen in other Toyota models. The new body is much more angular, sportier, and more aggressive than before, borrowing styling cues from other Toyota models of late. Certain variants of the Corolla Altis feature LED daytime running lights and tail lamps, a sports kit, and 17-inch alloy wheels. Underneath, the Corolla Altis rides on a bigger platform which means more space and better handling than before. Engine-wise, Toyota could opt to stay put with their current 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter line-up, though others say, Toyota could bump up the base model to 1.8-liters and keep the 2.0-liter as the range-topper.
#12: Volkswagen Beetle
No other car comes close to being recognized as an icon as the Volkswagen Beetle. And now, Filipino buyers can finally get back into “Beetle Mania” with the reintroduction of a modern classic this 2014. Despite a recognizable silhouette, the new Beetle features a clean sheet design with more masculine and sporty lines characterized by a longer hood and a sharply raked windshield. Inside, the Beetle promises a driver-centric interior while leaving a lasting impression because of color-coordinated panels and the use of high-quality materials. The Beetle also marks the first time a gasoline engine is used in Volkswagen’s local line-up offering TSI or Turbo Stratified Injection in 1.2- (105 horsepower) and 1.4-liter (160 horsepower) versions.