What is it? A luxury small family hatch with hybrid power
Price from £23,485
On sale Jan 2011
Lexus is hopping on the downsizing bandwagon with the CT200h. However, this rival to premium hatchbacks such as the Audi A3 and BMW 1 Series is far from conventional because it’s the first hybrid car in the class.
The CT200h uses the same 1.8-litre petrol engine and battery-powered electric motor as the Toyota Prius. What’s more, like the Prius, it can run on petrol or electric power alone or a combination of both. The result is a car with tiny emissions and low running costs. It averages 68.9mpg and attracts much lower company car tax bills than similarly priced A3 and 1 Series diesels. Other strengths include superb build quality and generous standard equipment.
However, we’ve driven it and the CT200h’s limited rear legroom, whiney CVT gearbox and hard ride are less likely to leave a smile on your face.
What is it? A new look for Kia’s three-door Cee’d
Estimated pricefrom £12,500
On sale Autumn 2011
Kia face-lifted the five-door hatchback and SW estate versions of its Cee’d small family car last year, and the current three-door Procee’d (shown here) will get the same tweaks in 2011.
The most significant changes are retuned suspension and a cleaner 1.6-litre diesel engine. Outside, there are restyled front and rear lights, and a more angular front end. Every Procee’d will also benefit from plusher cabin materials.
An all-new Cee’d is due in 2012, although Kia hasn’t said if the Procee’d will be replaced then.
What is it? An all-new Bug that’s more practical and better to drive
Estimated pricefrom £15,000
On sale Winter 2011
Volkswagen's 'new' Beetle has felt distinctly old for some time now, so it’s good news that it’s being replaced next year.
Like the current car, the replacement will feature traditional Beetle cues, such
as rounded headlights and tail-lights and separate wings over each wheel. However, Volkswagen is promising a less feminine look overall.
It’s not just the styling that’s being revised. The new car will be powered by the latest VW Group engines, and there’s an all-new chassis that should make it better to drive than the current car.
What is it? The first affordable electric family car
Estimated pricefrom £23,500
On sale February 2011
On the surface, Nissan’s new Leaf looks anything but radical. However, under the skin it’s a different story, because it’s the world’s first mass-production, all-electric family car. The Leaf has 48 lithium-ion batteries beneath its floor that drive a 108bhp electric motor which provides 207lb ft of instantly accessible torque. As a result performance is electric in more ways than one, yet the Leaf produces zero emissions at the tailpipe.
Of course, this zero figure doesn’t take into account the fact that most of the electricity the Leaf uses is likely to come from power stations that pump out plenty of CO2. You’ll also need to recharge the Leaf every 100 miles or so (more often if you work the motor or the air-conditioning hard), and this typically takes eight hours from a domestic socket, or 30 minutes if you use a quick-charge station.
The Leaf isn’t much use if you’ve got to get from London to Edinburgh, then, but it does prove that electric cars can be both easy and good to drive. There are no gears to worry about and it doesn’t suffer from the heavy braking effect that afflicts some battery cars as they maximise battery regeneration when you lift off the accelerator. What’s more, it feels well balanced in bends and extremely stable at speed.
The Leaf is easy to live with in other ways, too. You can use your smart phone to programme it to recharge when it’s convenient, or even to fire-up the air-conditioning, and there’s plenty of space for five six-footers, and a decent-sized boot.
Vauxhall Astra 3dr/GTC
What is it? A three-door Astra with coupé-like styling
Estimated pricefrom £14,500
On sale Winter 2011
No you're not looking at the replacement for the Astra Sport Hatch, but there are hints from Vauxhall that the real thing will be very similar to this stylish GTC concept car (seen at the Paris motor show a few months ago) when it goes on sale at the end of next year. What’s more, the production car is likely to keep the GTC name.
The concept was powered by a 2.0-litre turbocharged petrol engine with a start-stop system, and you can expect a similar combination in the flagship VXR model, which will pack around 300bhp.
The rest of the engines will come from the five-door hatch, and that’s no bad thing because it means there will be a wide range of petrols and diesels to choose from. If the old Astra Sport Hatch is anything to go by, the GTC will cost the same as an equivalent five-door car.
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