By: Ollie Kew - 03 Jan, 2017
Let’s start with the numbers car. The one with nigh-on 1,500bhp, four turbos, a top speed on the ‘oh my goodness gracious’ side of 260mph and very possibly the most expensive car in the world once Bugatti’s clientele have specified which particular sea mammal’s skin they’d like draped over the seats. But beneath the garnish and the top trumps, the Chiron looks like a stunning piece of kit, a son of Veyron that’s more powerful, more aerodynamically efficient and several hundred per cent better looking than its legendary dad. We thought the Veyron was the car no machine would ever be able to follow. In 2017, we’ll discover if that’s correct or not…
How unnervingly refreshing it is for Top Gear to bring you news of an all-new Alfa Romeo – the first SUV ever to carry the Alfa name, no less – and not have to awkwardly tip-toe around the likelihood that it’ll probably be a bit…rubbish. The new Alfa Romeo Stelvio (cor, Alfa’s in a sweet spot with car names right now, isn’t it?) is heavily based upon the foundations for the Giulia saloon (see what we mean), which ripped up the formbook last year by actually being good.
This Quadrifoglio version relies on the same mechanicals as the Giulia Quadrifoglio saloon, which it turn means this is a family SUV powered by what is to a large extend a Ferrari engine. Alfa doesn’t like the association (Ferrari even less so, you’ll be thoroughly unsurprised to learn), preferring to pigeonhole the twin-turbocharged, 2.9-litre V6 as ‘inspired by Ferrari technologies and know-how’. But in broader engineering terms, you’re getting a five-seat family SUV pushed along by three-quarters of a Ferrari California T’s bi-turbo V8. Some pedigree.
It’s 2017’s most hotly-awaited supercar, the GT. And with the 2016 Le Mans class win disappearing into history, the road car has to step up to shoulder that halo effect status – and justify a price that applied to the old Ford GT. This time, we’ve got a turbocharged V6 instead of a V8, a seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox instead of a manual, and the most outlandish aero of any street car this side of the hybrid holy trinity.
Good car, the old CX-5. Decent to drive, decent looking, decently practical – it wasn’t bedroom wall material (what crossover is?), but it covered all the basics off really well and was well-priced to boot. The sequel has a hard act to follow, but already looks smarter on the outside and more premium (read: German) inside.
Meanwhile, the chassis is more rigid than before and you can have torque-vectoring so no pesky tenths of a second on the school run are frittered away by wheels spooling up and wasting power. Not even the MX-5 has that sort of technology.
You might not be a fan of the Countryman’s looks (we’re still, erm, learning to like ‘em) but there’s no doubt this thing will be a massive seller for Mini as it cashes in once again on the crossover boom and this time adds more off-road ability, space and a dashboard that doesn’t appear to have been made out of old water butts. It needs to be good, because this Countryman has got an enemy within to content with. A willfully funky crossover within the BMW group…
…yep, it’s the production version of the X2 concept pictured above that’s spearheading BMW’s attack on the funky crossover segment. Evoques and Q2s, be afraid. Both of those cars win at style, but leave plenty of room for improvement in the Ultimate Driving Machine department…
At long, long last, 2017 brings us a new Alpine. We know it’ll have a four-cylinder turbo motor mounted between the seats and the rear wheels. We know it’s going to have a dual-clutch gearbox. It’ll do 0-62mph in about 4.5 seconds and aim to give an Alfa 4C and Porsche 718 Cayman all sorts of French, retro-rally headaches. What we don’t know yet, it what it’ll be called, or if it’ll be any good. But if they keep the concept’s styling, we’ll forgive Renault for the paddleshift-only Clio RS…
Here’s good news for the hoards of you who’ve been sitting on a pile of money at least two hundred notes high since 2014, waiting for Lamborghini to turn the wick up on the Huracan. Less weight, more power and a massive wing will all feature on the successor to the Gallardo Superlegerra: the Huracan Performante. Good timing too. All the McLaren 675LTs are sold and there’s no Speciale version of the Ferrari 488 (yet)…
Take AMG GT. Remove roof. Create possibly the best-looking Mercedes-Benz that’s currently available. That’s your AMG GT Roadster, available as a standard 467bhp version or in widebody GT C form, complete with bodywork nods to the AMG GT R and a meaty 549bhp delivered courtesy of the familiar 4.0-litre bi-turbo V8 motor.
This one might slip to 2018. And if it does, several hundred thousand deposit holders will get mighty peeved, because the pre-order frenzy for Tesla’s most affordable EV yet has been nothing short of unprecedented. It’s priced at $35k before tax breaks, will go up to 215 miles on a charge and ought to hit 62mph in well under six seconds. We’re also expecting an ultra-minimalist interior. And maybe some self-driving autopilot. It could – should, perhaps – be a game-changer. When it arrives…
Peugeot is on mighty form of late. The 3008 crossover is a genuinely stunning piece of interior design wrapped up in a much more appealing crossover body than the old 3008, which looked like the result of a drunken liaison between an angry Bruce Banner and a robot guinea pig. Now it’s the 5008’s turn – out go the frumpy MPV looks, and in comes detailing and style to make a Kia Sportage or Nissan X-Trail very worried indeed. Hope it drives well…
We’ve already had an off-round jaunt in the new Disco. It’s good. Very capable. Just as well, because when we first saw Gerry McGovern’s new design for the boxy icon (a Disco Sport x 100 per cent, we thought), there was a worry Land Rover had come over more King’s Road than king of the outback. Mind you, we worried the same fate for the Evoque, and that’s both ace in the rough and a sales phenomenon. You could be looking at 2017’s great British success story, right here.
This is the new Insignia, and, like a post-procedure Captain America, it’s unrecognisably handsome. Oh, and it’s not called Insignia any more. This is now the Insignia Grand Sport. Grander in terms of size? Nope – dimensions are broadly the same as the old Insignia but the all-new 29mm lower, 11mm wider bodyshell is 60kg lighter. And if you spec light, you’ll end up with a car that’s 175kg lighter than the old car.
Whether you keep the spec simple depends on how tempted you are by a smorgasbord of gadgets. There’s optional LED matrix lighting, a head-up display, stacks of driver aids and Vauxhall’s 24hr-manned call centre guardian angel, OnStar.
Inside, the cabin has benefitted from a massive 92mm stretch in wheelbase and borrows new Astra’s dash, blending the IntelliLink touchscreen into a flush glass panel and sitting the driver 30mm lower than in the old Insignia. That’ll be the “Sport” bit of the new name, then.
The facelifted Golf GTI is coming. It brings a new, flush-fitting touchscreen and haptic buttons inside. Oooh. Aah. And there are new bumpers inspired by the Nurburgring-crushing GTI Clubsport’s aero. Cor. Blimey.
Far more importantly, there is more power. The 2.0-litre turbo four-pot has been boosted up to 242bhp in GTI Performance guise. And the six-speed DSG that’s been feeling dated for a while now has gone in a skip, with a new seven-speeder arriving for faster shifts and leggier cruising. This thing will arrive just in time to battle the new RS Megane and, later in 2017, the new Honda Civic Type R. Happy days in hot hatch land. Speaking of which…
It’s front-wheel drive again. It’s a 2.0-litre turbo, again. It’s got more wing on board than an aircraft carrier. Again. It’s fair to say the philosophy for the new Civic Type R hasn’t moved on much from the old one. But the performance will jump, as Honda chases its Nürburgring lap record crown.
The new Civic has been built lower and lighter, more of a driver’s car, even down to the boggo 1.5-litre version. The driver sits on the floor, not on a bar stool, and the centre of gravity has been dropped. This means much interior versatility has been lost in the name of making it a fun steer. In the standard cars, this might be a problem, but when you’re building a road racer, it’s spot on the money. This time around, the Type R has a much, much better starting platform, a superior springboard with which to create supercar-humbling urgency. The Ford Focus RS’s time at the top of the angry hot hatch tree might be short-lived, if Honda can live up to the promise of these crazy looks.
As it becomes clear they're swimming in a shrinking pool, fish instinctively take up the struggle for available space and oxygen. Suddenly, all bets are off and only the strongest and most competitive manage to rise above an increasingly agitated pack to fight another day.
And so it goes in the Australian new car ecosystem. The 'light' category is still one of the largest in market, where the likes of Hyundai's Accent, the Mazda2, and Toyota's evergreen Yaris live. But the line on the sales chart is ever so consistently heading south.
Year-to-date sales for light cars under $25k are down no less than 20 per cent, and that's on the back of 16 per cent drop over the course of 2016. Meanwhile, medium SUVs are up close to 10 per cent.
Enter Kia's Rio hatch, the brand's global best-seller, with claimed annual sales "approaching 500,000", which is undoubtedly a big number. But in Australia, the Rio is a middle order player in a light car field of around 15 determined competitors.
Which means the new fourth generation Rio, launched here in January this year, is critical to Kia's chances of grabbing a larger slice of the rapidly diminishing light car pie.
Not surprising then, that the entry-level S model boasts upgraded multimedia connectivity and enhanced safety tech, not to mention improved dynamics and more space. Sounds good, but is it enough to get a jump on the light car big guns?
Is there anything interesting about its design?
The architect of Kia's recent styling revolution is Peter Schreyer, a gifted designer that raised automotive eyebrows around the world when he upped stumps at Volkswagen Group in 2006 to join the Korean carmaker.
Under his watch, the Kia design team has internationalised and unified the look of the entire range, from the tiny Picanto to the jumbo-size Carnival people mover.
A signature element across the line-up is the tabbed 'Tiger Nose' grille, and the new Rio proudly wears a sleek and neatly refined version of it, with distinctive, raked headlights sitting either side.
From there though, the overall look is pretty much hatch by-the-numbers. Inoffensive but uninspiring, with a generic approach to the profile and rear treatment.
An odd touch is a pronounced handle on the rear hatch door. Flying in the face of the current trend towards low-key integration of this type of function, it looks like a clumsy throwback to the 1980s.
Inside, the dash is cool and clean, with the central 7.0-inch multimedia touchscreen standing proud of the main fascia. Key controls are clear and simple, while the soft-form instrument binnacle houses a large speedo and tachometer, with a multi-function LCD display (including a digital speed read-out) between them.
The Rio S interior colour palette ranges all the way from grey to dark grey, with tightly woven and subtly textured cloth trim on the seats.
One small whinge relates to the four button blanks in the console. Yes, the S is the base model, but blanks in place of controls for 'stuff' fitted to higher variants really rams the fact home.
How practical is the space inside?
Measuring just over 4.0m long, 1.7m wide, and 1.45m high, the Rio fits the light car template to a tee. Its 2.6m wheelbase plants the wheels close to each corner to maximise interior space, and the result is surprisingly generous accommodation.
Plenty of space up front, with two cupholders (of different sizes) in the centre console and bottle bins (big enough for 1.5-litre bottles) in the doors. There's also a storage box between the front seats and a decent glovebox.
For powering and connecting purposes you'll find a 12 volt outlet, an auxiliary line-in socket, a USB port, as well as a drop-down sunglasses box in the roof. And if you're on the gaspers, there's even a cigarette lighter (the ashtray is removable).
Swings and roundabouts in the back, with a handy amount of head and legroom (for this 183cm tester) offset by the lack of controllable air vents, central armrest or cupholders.
Three adults across the back will be uncomfortably tight for anything other than short journeys, but there's a 12 volt power socket, USB port, a map pocket on the back of the front passenger seat (only), and (500ml) bottle bins in the doors.
Open the rear hatch and you're greeted with 325 litres of cargo space with the 60/40 split fold rear seat upright. That's enough to hold our three piece suitcase set (35, 68 and 105 litres), or the CarsGuide pram, albeit in an awkwardly side-on position.
Fold the rear seats down (flat) and the load space increases to a substantial 980 litres. As well as the main cargo area, there's a handy storage bin on the passenger side, a light, parcel hooks, and four tie down anchor points. The spare is a space saver.
Towing capacity is understandably limited, with 450kg allowed for an unbraked trailer and 1000kg for a braked trailer.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
The Rio S manual wears a $16,990 price tag (before on-road costs) which positions it more than 10 per cent above entry-level offerings from key segment players like the Hyundai Accent Active, Mazda2 Neo, and Toyota Yaris Ascent.
For that money you'll be on the receiving end of standard features including remote central locking (with keyless entry), the 7.0-inch multimedia screen managing a six-speaker audio system with Bluetooth connectivity as well as Android Auto and Apple CarPlay compatibility, (manual) air conditioning, auto headlights, and reverse parking sensors.
Not bad for a five-door hatch at the budget end of the spectrum, but forget cruise control, sat nav or alloy wheels. For those you'll need to step up to the Si at $21,490, and if your heart's set on rain-sensing wipers, climate control air and a sunroof, the top-spec SLi is your only choice at $22,990.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
The single Rio engine option is the 'Kappa' 1.4-litre, naturally aspirated petrol four cylinder, producing a modest 74kW at a peaky 6000rpm, and 133Nm at a relatively high 4000rpm.
It's an all-alloy, overhead cam, 16-valve design, featuring variable valve timing (inlet and exhaust). It drives the front wheels through a six-speed manual (as tested here) or four speed automatic transmission.
How much fuel does it consume?
Kia quotes combined (urban/extra urban) fuel economy of 5.6L/100km for the six-speed manual Rio S, emitting 129g/km of CO2 in the process.
That's a pretty handy number, and the other good news is the engine is tuned to run on regular 91 unleaded. At that rate, the tank's 45-litre capacity equates to a theoretical range of around 800km.
Over roughly 350km of city, suburban and freeway running, we recorded 8.4L/100km (courtesy of the on-board computer), which still converts to a handy 535 kays between fills.
What's it like to drive?
Kia claims the new Rio's bodyshell is stiffer than the outgoing model's, which has allowed a more compliant (strut front, torsion beam rear) suspension set-up, and like every other Kia model offered in Australia, the Rio's underpinnings have been comprehensively revised and tweaked by local tuning guru Graeme Gambold.
The results are impressive, with a balance between ride comfort, body control and dynamic response cars costing at least twice as much would be proud to call their own.
With just 74kW on hand to shift 1.1 tonnes of hatchback, and that peak number arriving at a lofty 6000rpm, you'd hope for some low down torque to help with step-off acceleration and mid-range kick.
But no such luck. Torque is less than mega, and with the peak arriving way up at 4000rpm, when you need some extra urge for a snappy lane change or overtaking there's simply nobody home.
In terms of the driving environment, while the interior looks good, the feel bit doesn't exactly measure up. The plastics used around the dash, doors and console are so hard, it's like driving a Tuppaware container on wheels. In fact, those trusty, air-tight receptacles are probably more forgiving than the Rio's main cabin surfaces.
What does it cost to own? What warranty is offered?
7 years / unlimited km warranty
The oversize ace up the Rio's sleeve is Kia's industry-leading seven year/unlimited km warranty, which includes seven years roadside assist and seven years capped price servicing. Whoa.
Servicing is recommended every 12 months or 15,000km (whichever comes first), and the cost of each of those services is detailed on Kia Australia's website, including detail on everything that's replaced, inspected or otherwise checked each time. Cue applause...
For the record, (guide) costs over those seven years are - $226, $382, $277, $561, $255, $470, and $270.
The 2017 Hyundai i30 SR Premium gives you 150kW of power and a load of standard features that belie its modest $34k price. It begs the question: how much hot hatch do you really need?
You are looking at the flagship of Hyundai's hyped third-generation i30 range. It's called the SR Premium, and it's designed to make prospective Volkswagen Golf GTI buyers pause.
On paper the Korean contender looks the goods. It's quick, has thoroughly reworked suspension and standard features that belie its $33,950 before on-road costs list price.
The argument: It's not quite as fast or potent as the German, but it is about 10 grand cheaper and not a million miles removed. So how much hot hatch do you really need?
Rivals trying to do exactly the same thing include the Ford Focus Titanium, Holden Astra RS-V, Honda Civic RS, Mazda 3 SP25 Astina and Renault Megane GT-Line.
Let's break this down. Under the bonnet is the same 1.6-litre GDi turbocharged petrol engine used in the Elantra SR, making 150kW of power and 265Nm of torque, the latter from 1500rpm.
This engine sends its power to the front wheels via a standard DCT seven-speed dual-clutch automatic gearbox with paddles - only the base $25,950 i30 SR with less equipment gets a six-speed manual option.
Listen to the 2017 Hyundai i30 SR from 0-100km/h.
By Top Gear
The Prius gets better in the areas it needed to. Fresh-feeling cabin, urban economy, powertrain.
By Adil Khan
For decades, people have been speculating on topics ranging from car colour affecting insurance premiums to outlandish service intervals. You might ask yourself why these misconceptions exist and where these myths come from. It’s partially due to the lack of transparency in the industry itself as well as the fact that most people find the world of cars to be a little confusing. Whatever the reason, we’re debunking five of the silliest misconceptions about cars, once and for all.
By Craig Jamieson
Ah, the Skyline. Against a skyline. Nice.
The Skyline, in our opinion, is the car that made Nissan.
Never mind that it was actually invented by Prince – no, not the ‘Purple Rain’ one, the Japanese car manufacturer, which merged with Nissan in the 1960s. Nissan kept the excellent ‘Skyline’ name – and the somewhat suspect ‘Gloria’, but we digress.
The Skyline nameplate dates all the way back to the late 1950s, but it’s the 1989 R32 Skyline GTR that really put Nissan on the map. Even though there had been quite a few highlights in the range over the years – the original 1969 GTR, for instance, and the R31 GTS-R – the R32 left an indelible mark, both on the road and in motorsport.