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Hatchbacks

All-New Nissan LEAF Ready To Take On Chevy Bolt, Tesla Model 3

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New Nissan Leaf EV, white

The Nissan Leaf, the car that sparked the mainstream electric car segment into second gear, has been redesigned, gaining a fresher style, more technology and longer driving range to better compete with the Chevrolet Bolt, Tesla Model 3 and other new EV challengers.

For starters, the second-generation Leaf gains a bigger battery (40-kWh) that provides approximately 150 miles of driving range, a 40-percent increase over the previous model. As good as that is, that level of performance actually places the electric hatchback in the middle of the pack, beating the Hyundai Ioniq Electric’s 124 miles, Honda Clarity’s 89 miles and BMW i3’s 81 miles but falling far short of the Chevy Bolt’s 238 miles and Tesla Model 3’s 220-310 miles.

A new, more capable electric motor also grants the Leaf with a significant power increase, delivering 147 horsepower and 236 pound-feet of torque. Nissan’s engineers refined the chassis for better stability and revamped the electric steering system for a more linear feel.

The exterior of the new Leaf is an evolution over the its predecessor, eschewing a quirky design for a more traditional look highlighted by Nissan’s trademark V-Motion grille and a floating roof.

Ditto with the technologically-superior interior, which has the same general layout as the previous Leaf’s and boasts upgraded versions of the same switchgear. Why mess with something that isn’t broken, right?

All models come standard with a single ‘e-Pedal’ system that allows drivers to accelerate, cruise, decelerate and stop using just one pedal. Simply removing your foot from the pedal initiates a 0.2g deceleration, eliminating the need for a brake pedal in most situations.

The new Nissan Leaf launches in the Japan in the closing months of 2017 and arrives in North America in early 2018 with a starting price of $30,875 in the United States, a price point that undercuts the competition.

A more powerful Leaf variant with even longer range will be released for the 2019 model year.

So, what do you think, does the new Nissan Leaf have what it takes to outsell the Chevrolet Bolt, Hyundai Ioniq Electric and other mainstream electric cars? Let’s not mention the Tesla Model 3 — that car is in a league of its own popularity-wise.

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Chicago Auto Show

Fiat 500 Lineup Goes All Turbo For 2018

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2018 Fiat 500 hatchback, America

Fiat used the 2018 Chicago Auto Show to announce that every version of the North American-spec. Fiat 500 lineup will now be powered by a turbocharged engine.

The 2018 Fiat 500 Pop and Lounge models are now powered by a 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine that generates 135 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft. of torque — 34 more standard horsepower than the previous model year — while the performance-tuned 500 Abarth makes dues with a funner 1.4-liter turbocharged engine rated at 160 horsepower and 183 lb.-ft. of torque.

The Pop and Lounge models also get standard 16-inch aluminum wheels, performance braking system, sport suspension and a rear backup camera. Relatively unchanged, the Abarth adds 16-inch Hyper Black aluminum wheels wraped in Pirelli tires, red brake calipers, and a “double-tip” dual-exhaust system.

Fiat’s designers revised the exterior of all three models, giving them updated front and rear fascias, side-sill ground effects, a new spoiler, fog lamps, and “Turbo” badging on the liftgate. as well as three new colors (Brillante Red, Mezzanotte Blue Pearl and Vesuvio Black Pearl).

These changes should help breathe a little life into the Fiat 500 lineup, which has been struggling to find buyers. However, considering the 500 is now over eight years old (13 years in some global markets), what Fiat really needs is an all-new model.

What do you think about the changes?

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Hatchbacks

New, 2019 Mercedes-Benz A-Class Ups Its Small Car Game

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New, 2019 Mercedes A-Class Hatchback

An all-new Mercedes-Benz A-Class hatchback has materialized sporting Mercedes-Benz’s latest design language and technology and premiering its new MBUX infotainment system.

Unveiled at an event in Amsterdam, the fourth-generation A-Class retains the same overall shape of its predecessor but features fewer creases and new LED headlights that are slimmer. The hood slopes at a steeper angle into a pointier snout, while the rear looks wider for a sleeker appearance.

A drag coefficient of just 0.25 and optional active grille shutters are said to make the Mercedes hatchback the most aerodynamic model in the compact class.

While the exterior doesn’t deviate too much from the previous model, the interior has been completely overhauled and is “a class” above (pun intended). Like the new G-Class, it adopts the look and feel of the S-Class and all other modern Mercedes cockpits, omitting the traditional cowl in favor of an unbroken wing-shape dashboard that’s highlighted by dual displays. Lower trim levels get a 7.0-inch screen, while premium packages come with 10.25-inch panels.

The new A-Class is the first model to offer Mercedes-Benz new MBUX multimedia system, which uses artificial intelligence algorithms to learn the driver’s preferences. It is also available with head-up display, Car-to-X communication, the Vehicle Tracker and the Mercedes Me app collection.

In Europe, power is provided by the choice of two gasoline engines — 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder and the 2.0-liter turbo making 163- and 221 horsepower, respectively — or a diesel mill with 114 ponies. All models come equipped with a seven-speed dual-clutch transmission.

Despite being the smallest and most affordable Mercedes you can get, the new A-Class offers nearly all of the S-Class’ active safety and assistance systems.

The new Mercedes-Benz appears to be a very high-quality and promising subcompact, but it won’t be offered in America. Canada will get it, but just not the Good Ol’ U.S.A.

Americans have made it clear with their wallets that they don’t like hatchbacks, so they’ll have to settle for the sedan version of the A-Class.

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Geneva Motor Show

Kia Rio GT-Line Brings More Attitude To Rio Lineup

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New Kia Rio GT-Line hatchback

Kia has injected a dose of attitude in its Rio subcompact hatchback, giving us the Kia Rio GT-Line.

As a slightly sportier version of the Rio, the new Kia Rio GT-Line further expands Kia’s lineup of GT models in Europe, which includes the Sportage GT , Picanto GT and Sorento GT. It features a gloss-black and chrome ‘tiger-nose’ grille, standard LED daytime running lights, ‘ice-cube’ LED fog lamps, chrome window trim, unique 17-inch alloy wheels, twin exhaust tips, and a gloss black roof spoiler.

Inside, one finds a new ‘D-cut’ leather steering wheel and seats finished in a combination of black synthetic leather and cloth with contrast grey stitching, new metallic trim on the door switches and gear lever, and a new carbon fiber effect finish on the dashboard.

The Rio GT is powered by a 1.0L three-cylinder engine mated to a six-speed manual transmission, producing 118 horsepower and 126 lb-ft. of torque. That’s not quite as much as you’d find in the similarly-sized Ford Fiesta ST, VW Polo GTI and Renault Clio RS, but it is an improvement.

It is also offered with the regular Rio’s 1.25- or 1.4-liter naturally aspirated four-cylinder engines, but they pack less power — 83 and 98 hp, respectively — and are paired with a seven-speed dual-clutch automatic transmission.

The Kia Rio GT goes on sale in Europe in spring 2018. It remains to be seen whether Kia will offer a proper performance version of the little hatchback.

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