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First drive Ford Focus – on sale January 2005
After four million sales worldwide and securing itself a 5% share of the UK market, Ford is ready to open a new chapter in the Ford Focus story.
The new car comes hot on the heels of the latest Volkswagen Golf and Vauxhall Astra, but will hope to secure the top slot in the UK sales charts for the next few years. It will face growing competition from new rivals, like small MPVs and premium carmakers who are making their brands more accessible with smaller vehicles.
Ford has VW Golf – the aspirational car in the lower medium sector – in its sights (it’s certainly mirrored VW by going conservative with the styling). And while it would never claim to be in the same area of the market as BMW or Audi, the company is convinced it has come close to their levels of perceived quality with the new Focus.
Ford is following the example of sister company Volvo by using high-strength steel components in the structure to improve the car’s crash performance.
It will pre-empt the January launch with a TV advertising campaign, which breaks over the Christmas period to build up showroom demand.
The range line-up has been revised and, while the entry-level Studio (a replacement for CL) and LX models are slightly cheaper than before, Zetec and Ghia models are more expensive, but have more equipment as standard.
A new Sport model has been introduced between LX and Zetec with user-choosers in mind, offering sportier styling and special steel wheels which are more resilient to scuffs than alloys, but look similar.
Sitting above Ghia is a new range-topper. Titanium is aimed at those who find the more contemporary luxury found in Audis preferable to the Ghia’s wood and velour finish.
Ford expects 70% of Focus models to be sold with one of four petrol engines (1.4-litre 79bhp, 1.6 99bhp and 113bhp, 2.0 143bhp) available, while the remainder will be one of the two new diesels (1.6 TDCi 108bhp and 2.0 TDCi 134bhp).
A four-door saloon will join the three-door, five-door and estate in February, with nearly three-quarters of sales expected to be the five-door hatchback, the estate taking 12%, the three-door making up 10% and 5% of customers choosing saloons. Total UK sales will be at least 130,000 next year (that includes 25,000 run-out models over the first three months).
Also appearing in February will be a 90bhp version of the 1.6 TDCi and a four-speed automatic version of the 2.0-litre petrol variant.
About 45% of Focus sales are expected to be LX or Sport variants, with Zetec taking 25%, Ghia 20% and the range-topping Titanium and entry-level Studio each taking 5%.
First look: Chevrolet Matiz – on sale May 2005
The facelifted Matiz will become the first revised model to test UK customer reaction to the Chevrolet brand.
Launched in May 2005, four months after Daewoo changes its name to Chevrolet, the new Matiz will attempt to buck UK consumers’ traditional view of the manufacturer as a maker of big, brash American gas-guzzlers.
Matiz is the smallest car in the Chevrolet range. The larger Kalos (which gains a three-door derivative in March) and the family-sized Lacetti (which spells the end for the Nubira name – 4dr, 5dr and forthcoming estate will all be called Lacetti) will help pave the way for the Chevrolet Matiz.
Parent General Motors hopes the Chevrolet badge will help the company dispose of the baggage caused by the well-publicised problems at Daewoo. But it is staying publicly cautious over sales of the new-look Matiz, saying only that it expects to sell more than the current model’s 2004 target of 5,000 units.
The supermini sector is enjoying a strong sales, especially in cities where the small dimensions appeal in congested areas. Favourable VED rates on smaller-engined cars are also encouraging consumers to downsize from family cars.
The revised Matiz gains a new interior, including centre speedo, while its long wheelbase (2.35m) and high roofline (1.5m) offers ample room for four adults, although overall dimensions remain unchanged.
Most of the changes have been made to the exterior. The car gets new suspension, which promises better handling and ride, and a Micra-apeing LED headlamp design, matched at the rear by round tail lights. A future range-topper will feature panoramic glass roof shown on the car pictured left.
Under the bonnet is the same 1.0-litre 64bhp petrol unit, which offers a top speed slightly above 90mph. Expect prices to start at around £6,000.
First look: Citroen C4 – on sale November
The C4, arriving here in November, will broaden Citroen’s market appeal – in particular with business used-choosers – after a year of targeting retail buyers with the C2 and C3.
The new C4 will be available in five-door hatch and three-door coupe, each with panoramic glass roofs.
The UK will get a similar engine line-up to mainland Europe - 1.4 (90bhp), 1,6 (110bhp) 2.0 (138bhp), 2.0 (143bhp) and 2.0 (180bhp) petrol units, plus 1.6 (90bhp), 1.6 (110bhp) and 2.0 (138bhp) HDi diesels.
The main instrument panel is mounted centrally on the dash. A second panel for rev counter and driver information sits behind the steering wheel.
Features include the lane departure warning system, which uses in-seat vibrations to alert drivers if their car crosses a lane without indicating.
Citroen UK insists its cars will bring rewards for dealers. “We’ve got one of the youngest model ranges in the UK. All our range is either completely new or has had major revisions in the last two to three years,” says a spokesman.
First look: Peugeot 1007 – on sale late 2005
Based on the Sesame concept first seen in 2002, the 1007 is Peugeot’s response to the Renault Modus, launched in the UK last month.
Peugeot is hoping its funky new offering will attract small car buyers who want MPV practicality without the usual people carrier dimensions – it is 10cm shorter than its 206 cousin. The 1007 is bigger than it seems, though, particularly inside where the high roofline means plenty of cabin space.
An impressive feature is the electric sliding doors on both sides, which use the same system as the 807. These slide fully open for easy access to the rear seats but don’t extend past the full length of the vehicle.
Due in the UK in late 2005, it will have three engines variants: 75bhp 1.4 and 110bhp 1.6-litre petrol units and a 70bhp 1.4-litre diesel. On petrol models there will also be the option of a new 2 Tronic semi-automatic gearbox, similar to Citroen’s Sensodrive system, which allows the driver to select fully automatic mode or to change gear via steering wheel-mounted paddles.
First look: Mazda5 – on sale September 2005
Mazda hopes to inject a little Zoom-Zoom into the compact MPV sector with the Mazda5 which features its innovative 6+1 interior concept. It’s designed to provide maximum comfort for six occupants, yet remain versatile enough to allow space for a seventh.
The second and third rows of seats can be arranged in several ways to maximise the available space, but one smart idea is a fold-out seventh seat beneath the nearside second row bench. Alternatively, a utility box stowed beneath the offside second row seat can be pulled out to occupy the space as a table instead.
If neither option is required, the space can be used as a walkway.
Stephen Odell, president of Mazda Motor Europe, says: “It’s going to make a name for itself as the best interior in this class.
People wondered whether Mazda could really make a people mover than is sporty – I think we have shown that we can.”
The company seems determined to make the Mazda5 as family-friendly as possible, through the use of keyless entry and ignition and large sliding doors on both sides of the vehicle, which open by 700mm for ease of entry.
Optional entertainment systems will include a hard disk drive-based stereo and a ceiling-mounted seven-inch LCD screen and DVD player.
Powertrain options will comprise 1.8 and 2.0-litre petrol engines with a five-speed manual gearbox (four-speed automatic optional) and a MZR-CD 2.0 common-rail injection turbodiesel offered in two levels of tune – 81bhp and 105bhp – mated to a six-speed manual transmission.
Mazda also showed its Mazda6 MPS performance model which is launched next autumn. Pricing for both cars will be announced nearer launch.
First look: Hyundai Sonata – on May 2005
The Hyundai Sonata was actually launched in the UK in 1989 and has undergone several facelifts since. But it has never won many hearts among UK buyers.
Last year just 616 examples were sold. Despite low prices and high equipment levels, its bland looks and dated interior were never going to be popular among executive segment buyers.
But the fifth-generation Sonata – like the new Tucson – shows Hyundai is moving in the right direction when it comes to styling and build quality. Sharp, clean lines should appeal to European buyers and, while the interior is not exactly inspiring, it is functional and seems well screwed together.
There will be two all-new engines available, the 230bhp 3.3-litre V6 Lambda unit and the 159bhp 2.4-litre Theta. There will also be a diesel option when the 2.0 VGT CRDi is introduced in 2006.
As you’d expect, standard specification will be impressive and will include ABS, electronic brake force distribution, electric windows all round, power mirrors and a CD player.
First look: Kia Sportage – on sale January 2005
Kia’s UK sales are going from strength to strength and when the all-new Sportage SUV arrives here in January it looks set to reinforce that situation. Kia Motors UK hopes to sell 5,000 units a year.
The Sportage will be sold in two and four-wheel-drive form, with three engines – 2.0 petrol, 2.7 petrol and 2.0CRDi. Automatic transmission is standard on the 2.7 and optional on all other variants.
Although designed in Korea, it has undergone extensive European testing to support Kia’s aim for responsive on-road manners and comfortable ride, while still retaining good off-road ability.
Customer options will include a Monotone exterior package with colour-coded detailing, and a Premium interior package with leather trim plus brushed aluminium and chrome details. With the rear seats folded, the car’s luggage capacity of 667 litres almost triples to 1,886 litres. Prices are as yet unannounced, but it is likely to compete with the Hyundai Tucson, which starts at £14,995.
First look: Mercedes Vision R and Vision B – on sale early 2006
Mercedes-Benz has unveiled two further incarnations of its Sports Tourer concept first shown in 2002. The Vision R and Vision B are still both labelled as concepts, although they are both close to going into production.
The Vision B is the smaller of the two models and is based on the new A-class. Described as a ‘compact sports tourer’ by Mercedes-Benz, its overall length of 4.2m (80cm longer than the standard A-class) puts it up against compact MPVs such as the Ford Focus C-Max, Seat Altea and the excellent Renault Scenic.
With no premium marques present in this market segment, Mercedes will be hoping to take full advantage, with prices expected to start at around £17,500. Likely to be badged as the B-class it will also replace the long wheelbase version of the outgoing A-class.
Engines are expected to be shared with the A-class and C-class, with 1.4-litre, 1.6-litre, 1.8-litre and 2.0-litre petrol engines along with several diesels, including a new 140bhp 1.4-litre Euro IV compliant unit.
The Vision R, described as a grand sports tourer, is more difficult to pigeonhole into a specific market segment. With a four plus two seating system, it will obviously rival full size MPVs such as the Renault Espace, but its tourer looks will also appeal to estate buyers.
Bigger than the E-class (it is 4.9m long) the Vision R is incredibly spacious inside and all four rear seats can be folded flat to create a cavernous load space.
The concept version has a 215bhp V6 diesel engine, along with four-wheel-drive and a new 7G-Tronic seven-speed automatic gearbox. Other engines options will be shared with the E-class and S-class, while the four-wheel drive system is likely to be similar to the one used on the forthcoming M-class replacement.
First look: Nissan Tone – on sale 2006
Nissan has announced that the Tone, one of the models to replace the Almera in 2006, will be built at the Sunderland plant, safeguarding the jobs of thousands of workers.
The Tone is a niche model inspired by compact MPVs and will be ready for production in 2006. It’s based on the Renault-Nissan alliance’s B-platform, used for the Micra, but while overall dimensions are similar at four metres in length, the wheelbase is much longer – just an inch shorter than the X-trail.
Patrick Pelata, Nissan Europe senior vice president, says Tone is just one of a number of models that will replace the Almera. “We wanted a car that would be easy to live with, particularly for families with young children. But it also needed to be fun to drive and affordable,” he says.
Nissan claims Tone will have more interior space that a VW Golf, and will appeal to drivers of hatch-backs and small MPVs.
Also due next year will be the 350Z Roadster, Pathfinder and Murano.
First look: Skoda Octavia estate – on sale Feb 2005
Skoda has followed up the launch of the Octavia hatchback in July by unveiling a new estate version, along with a 4x4 variant. The company has attempted to give the new estate a sporty look while still having the practicality the old Octavia estate is renowned for.
This means a sloping back end reminiscent of the Mercedes C-class estate and more than 1,600 litres of load space when the rear seats are folded down.
With prices likely to start around £12,000, the estate will be available with the same six engines as the Octavia hatch including 75bhp 1.4-litre petrol, 115bhp 1.6 and 150bhp 2.0 FSi units and the 105bhp 1.9-litre and 140bhp 2.0-litre diesels. All are Euro IV.
The diesel models come with the much-lauded DSG gearbox, as used in the Audi A3 and TT, while the petrol version will be a standard five or six-speed.
The 4x4 Octavia estate will stand as a separate model to the rest of the range. It features a Haldex electronic clutch with sensors to determine the amount of drive needed for each wheel.
First look: Lexus GS – on sale Spring 2005
The Lexus GS has been around in the UK since 1994 and although it has found a few BMW 5-series and Mercedes E-class converts – 542 were sold in 2003 – it has never been as popular as the IS.
This has mainly been down to its less than flattering looks – including that bulbous rear – and the lack of a diesel engine option.
The new GS has been designed to retain the qualities of the old model, such as handling and performance, but now has sharper looks and, crucially, will be available with a diesel engine – although not straight from launch.
With a 50mm longer wheelbase, there is plenty of room inside and the new interior, as you’d expect from Lexus, is well finished with plenty of wood and leather.
One of the gripes about the outgoing model was its poor quality ride, particularly at low speed. Lexus has remedied this by fitting an all-new, double wishbone aluminium front and multilink rear suspension system to improve comfort.
A newly-developed 242bhp 3.0-litre V6 Dual VVT-i petrol engine has been added to the line-up, along with the current 4.3-litre V8 which has been given slight modifications. Both engines come with a newly developed close ratio six-speed automatic gearbox which features an ‘intelligent’ sequential shift mode.
What should boost sales of the GS, however, is the introduction of that diesel engine. Lexus has already confirmed it is developing a diesel which will be launched in the IS range in 2005, and it is likely a larger unit will make its way into the GS in 2006.
Although details of prices and specification have not yet been released, the GS, which is due to be launched in Spring next year, is likely to be priced competitively against its German rivals. Lexus is hoping that this, along with high levels of standard equipment such as automatic stability control and adjustable suspension settings, will mean significantly increased sales.
Lexus also unveiled its LF-C concept car, which is expected to point the way for the IS replacement that is set to have its official debut in Geneva early next year.
First look: Vauxhall Astra VXR – due summer 2005
Following the launch of its VXR brand, Vauxhall has unveiled a high-performance concept which will point the way to the VXR Astra three-door, due to be launched in summer 2005.
Powered by a modified version of the 2.0-litre engine from the VXR220 roadster, the HPC (high performance concept) has 240bhp, a top speed of 150mph and a 0-62mph time of under 6.5 seconds.
To handle all that power, the HPC is fitted with Vauxhall’s IDS Plus electronic chassis control, to help prevent understeer and torque steer when it is pushed hard.
You can expect to see the styling on the HPC carried through to the VXR variant with little change. This means 19in alloy wheels, a wider and lower air intake, front and rear spoilers and revised bumpers. Inside there are Recaro seats, drilled pedals and a piano-black finish to the centre console which will be unique to the VXR.
Designed to take on the likes of the forthcoming Golf GTi and Focus RS, it is likely to be priced around the £20,000 mark.
First look: Suzuki Swift – on sale Spring 2005
The new Suzuki Swift will be in a great position to attract young people who want a compact, stylish car but don’t have the budget for a Mini. It has almost identical dimensions and similar chunky good looks, but is likely to undercut the Mini substantially when launched here next Spring.
The Swift is Suzuki’s first car designed, developed and tested with the European market first in mind. Its chassis engineers aimed for a dynamic driving experience with a sophisticated, comfortable ride. Using a newly developed platform with a wide and long wheelbase, together with new front suspension design and torsion-beam rear suspension, the car benefits from low unsprung weight and predictable handling.
Swift will be available in three and five-door guise, with 1.3 petrol, 1.5 VVT petrol and 1.3 DDiS common-rail injection turbodiesel engines, all with manual transmission. Petrol variants can have a five-speed semi-automatic (1.3 only) or four-speed automatic (1.5 only).