Euro NCAP five-star safety rating for Fiat 500

Posted in Fiat

The Fiat 500 has just achieved the prestigious Euro NCAP five-star crash safety rating, (with a total of 35 points), so taking over top spot in its segment for safety. This important award adds to those assigned recently to the Fiat Bravo and Grande Punto, and confirms the special attention Fiat Automobiles SpA pays to all aspects of driver and passenger protection.

This is the first time that a car of this size has achieved five stars and the 500 is now one of the safest vehicles on today’s roads. To achieve the rating, Fiat designers examined every possible type of accident: front and side impacts, roll-overs and rear-end collisions. The different speeds at which collisions take place, different types of obstacles and the protection of occupants with widely varying physical characteristics, were also taken into consideration.

The Fiat 500 offers, as standard, two dual stage front airbags, two front side airbags for chest/pelvis protection, two window-bags and a driver’s knee airbag. Front seat-belts with a double pretensioner and load limiter are also standard equipment.

As well as incorporating a high performance braking system, the Fiat 500 features ABS anti-lock brakes with EBD (Electronic Brakeforce Distribution) and ESP (Electronic Stability Program). This sophisticated system is standard on the 1.4 16v version and an option on the other two versions (1.2 and 1.3 MultiJet).

The Fiat 500 is a car designed and built to achieve the highest levels of quality, as the safety award by Euro NCAP confirms. This total protection feature has contributed to the sales success of the model – since its launch this summer the car has already won over Italy and France, with around 70,000 orders to date.

Ferrari 599 GTB by Novitec Rosso

Posted in Ferrari

Set to be shown at the Frankfurt Motor Show in September, Novitec Rosso has created their own subtle styling kit which is true to form as well as function for the already stunning 599 GTB. Increased down force as well as cooling is provided by the body kit consisting of front lower spoiler, side skirts with larger air intake openings, side flaps, rear wing and rear diffuser. As the final styling element, 20-inch type N3 wheels in the front and 21-inch in the rear with Pirelli P Zero 275/30 R20 and 355/25 R21 tires round out the styling package.

For performance, the mid engine 599 GTB gets additional 25hp to 645hp via control unit upgrade and exhaust system with slightly larger 90mm dual tips which are cut at an angle. Top speed increases by 5 km/h. Currently, Novitec Rosso is developing a bigger power upgrade which is expected to be released in 2008.

Handling is improved with an adjustable aluminum suspension manufactured by KW Automotive. Ride height is adjustable by pressing a button. This is a convenient feature for underground car parks or steep driveway aprons. Brakes are specially fabricated Brembo six piston calipers with 405mm brake discs on all four wheels.

Final touches include LED rear lamps and black side indicators.

Maserati Quattroporte Sport GT S World Premiere in Frankfurt

Posted in Maserati

The new Quattroporte Sport GT S will be unveiled at the Frankfurt Motorshow for its worldwide preview. The Quattroporte Sport GT S is the ultimate expression of Maserati’s saloon sportiness.

Exclusively for those looking for an even stronger sporting edge in a luxury saloon, the Quattroporte Sport GT S, equipped with an automatic 6-speed gearbox, stands out for its exceptional dynamic behaviour and uncompromised handling.

This result was obtained with the introduction of new suspension layout, featuring single rate dampers and a “racing” set up. The Quattroporte Sport GT S sits 10mm lower at the front and 25mm at the rear compared to other versions of the Quattroporte, and also features new, stiffer springs and dampers.

The Quattroporte Sport GT S boasts a unique braking system developed in collaboration with Brembo. This innovative technology uses dual-cast brake discs, and this is the first time such a set up has been employed on a road car.

Unlike traditional cast iron discs, dual-cast discs are made of two materials, cast iron and aluminium, to ensure optimised braking, improving performance in the most extreme conditions and providing greater resistance to fade even at the highest temperatures. The Quattroporte Sport GT S’s new braking system also benefits from new mono-block, six-piston callipers at the front and tyres developed especially for this car (front 245/35-R20 and rear 295/30-R20). The increased size of the rear tyres allows optimum use of the Maserati’s V8 power, whilst the new tyre compound helps the brakes and set-up to guarantee a superior level of handling and driving emotion.

The Quattroporte Sport GT S’s exterior is distinguished by a more aggressive look. Along with the black-chrome mesh front grille, a characteristic element of sporty Maseratis, the side window trims and the two double exhaust pipes are also in black, whilst door handles are in the same colour as the body of the car.

The Quattroporte Sport GT S is fitted with eye-catching dark-chrome 20″, seven spoke alloy wheels.

Even the choice of material for the interior of the Quattroporte Sport GT S reflects the car’s sporty character. Traditional Poltrona Frau leather has been combined with Alcantara, which covers the central zone of the seats, the interior door panels and the steering wheel. Maserati has previously used Alcantara for the interior of the Trofeo cars and the MC12.

The dashboard is finished in new carbon fibre with aluminium treads, whilst front seats are characterised by a new, more cosseting sporty shape.

Alfa Romeo launches exciting new 147 Sport model

Posted in Alfa Romeo

Alfa Romeo is releasing a limited number of stunning special edition Alfa 147 Sport and Sport Q2 models in the UK. The new Alfa 147 Sport features a number of unique enhancements to the Alfa’s exterior styling. New 17-inch 5 spoke wheels add poise, while satin effect wing mirrors, a roof spoiler and chrome exhaust hint at the sporting prowess. The sport theme continues inside, with some subtle touches starting with exclusive Q2-type cloth used for the seats, aluminium pedals, sports dials, steering wheel-mounted audio controls and darkened roof lining.

The top-of-the-range Sport Q2 version has some unique features over the Sport specification; the most fundamental being the Q2 Limited Slip Differential. This addition to the Alfa 147’s already surefooted chassis is complemented by lowered sports suspension and unique Q2 17-inch alloy wheels. Inside, the higher specification machine adds black leather sports seats, dual zone climate control and stainless steel kick plates over the Sport specification. All 147 Sport models are available in Alfa Red, Stromboli Grey or Carbonio Black, colours which all accentuate the car’s distinctive styling.

By adding the Q2 system with its Torsen Limited Slip Differential which splits torque between the front drive wheels dynamically and constantly, according to driving conditions and the road surface it has given the Alfa 147 a sharper turn-in when cornering, adding to the car’s A-road prowess. The Q2 system also enhances traction, thus allowing the driver to enjoy the impressive 225 lb/ft of torque from the JTDM 16v engine with absolute confidence.

However, drivers will have to be quick to get their hands on one of these sharp-looking hatchbacks, with only 450 Alfa 147 Sport and 350 Alfa 147 Sport Q2 models available. The Alfa 147 Sport is available with either the 1.6 TS petrol engine or the 1.9 JTDM diesel unit. The Sport Q2 comes equipped with the 1.9 JTDM 16v unit, endowing the LSD-equipped car with a lusty 150bhp.

The Alfa 147 Sport is available in three or five door body styles. Available from £13,450, this model represents exceptional value for money in its class. The Alfa 147 Sport Q2 is available from £16,950 for the three door hatch and £17,450 for the five door version.

Source: Alfa Romeo UK


Posted in Ford, Mini, Suzuki, Toyota
  Fiat 500 1.4 lounge MINI Cooper D Suzuki Swift Sport Toyota Aygo+ Ford Sportka SE
On the road price/total as tested £11,500 (est) £14,175 / £16,920 £11,549 / £11,549 £7,685 / £7,685 £9,995 / £10,320
Residual value (after 3yrs/36,000) n/a £8,160 / 54.7 per cent £5.023 / 43.5 per cent £3,950 / 51.4 per cent £3,938 / 39.4 per cent
Running costs/Contract hire n/a 35.2ppm / £263 n/a 24.5ppm / £162 34.5ppm / £220
Annual tax liability std/higher rate TBC £561 / £1,020 £554 / £1,008 £253 / £461 £506 / £919
Annual fuel cost (12,000 miles) £1,326 £1,113 £1,545 £1,247 £1,572
Insurance group/quote TBC 8 / £262 9 / £298 1 / £233 5 / £329
Cost of 1st/2nd/3rd service TBC £150 (tlc pack) £131 / £250 / £197 £87 / £184 / £87 £157 / £157 / £219
Length/wheelbase 3,546 / 2,300mm 3,699 / 2,467mm 3,765 / 2,380mm 3,405 / 2,340mm 3,650 / 2,448mm
Height/width 1,488 / 1,627mm 1,407 / 1,683mm 1,500 / 1,690mm 1,465 / 1,615mm 1,409 / 1,656mm
Engine 4cyl in-line / 1,368cc 4cyl in-line / 1,560cc 4cyl in-line / 1,586cc 3cyl in-line / 998cc 4cyl in-line / 1,597cc
Peak power 100 / 6,000 bhp / rpm 108 / 4,000 bhp / rpm 123 / 6,800 bhp / rpm 67 / 6,000 bhp / rpm 94 / 5,500 bhp / rpm
Peak torque 131 / 4,250 Nm / rpm 260 / 2,000 Nm / rpm 148 / 4,800 Nm / rpm 93 / 3,600 Nm / rpm 135 / 4,250 Nm / rpm
Transmission 6-spd man / fwd 6-spd man / fwd 5-spd man / fwd 5-spd man / fwd 5-spd man / fwd
Fuel tank capacity/spare wheel 35 litres / space-saver 40 litres / foam sealant 45 litres / foam sealant 35 litres / full-size 40 litres / space-saver
Boot capacity (seats up/down) 185 litres / TBC 160 / 680 litres 213 / 495 litres 185 / 751 litres 186 / 724 litres
Kerbweight/payload 930 / 440kg 1,110 / 450kg 1,105 / 308kg 890 / 355kg 944 / 365kg
Turning circle/drag coefficient 10.6 metres / n/a 10.7 metres / 0.33Cd 10.4 metres / n/a 9.5 metres / 0.31Cd 11.1 metres / n/a
Basic warranty (miles)/recovery TBC 3yrs (unltd) / 3yrs Mini 3yrs (60,000) / 3yrs Suz 3yrs (60,000) / 1yr RAC 3yrs (60,000) / 1yr RAC
Service intervals/UK dealers 12,000 miles (est) / 171 Variable miles / 150 9,000 miles / 149 10,000 miles / 181 12,500 miles / 714
0-60/30-70mph 10.7 / 11.1 secs 9.2 / 9.3 secs 9.4 / 9.4 secs 12.1 / 13.6 secs 10.0 / 10.2 secs
30-50mph in 3rd/4th 5.7 / 8.1 secs 4.2 / 6.2 secs 5.1 / 7.2 secs 8.1 / 12.1 secs 5.2 / 6.6 secs
50-70mph in 5th/6th 12.9 / 17.3 secs 7.4 / 8.9 secs 11.0 secs / n/a 22.7 secs / n/a 11.2 secs / n/a
Top speed 113mph 121mph 124mph 98mph 108mph
Braking 70-0/60-0/30-0mph 49.7 / 36.8 / 9.2 metres 49.2 / 35.9 / 9.5 metres 50.1 / 35.3 / 9.2 metres 52.0 / 39.7 / 10.0 metres 51.2 / 36.9 / 9.2 metres
Noise levels outside/idle/30/70mph 58 / 45 / 65 / 73dB 69 / 46 / 62 / 73dB 59 / 42 / 65 / 72dB 58 / 43 / 63 / 71dB 63 / 44 / 62 / 72dB
Auto Express economy/range 39.7mpg / 306 miles 47.6mpg / 419 miles 33.9mpg / 335 miles 42.0mpg / 323 miles 33.3mpg / 293 miles
Govt urban/extra-urban/combined 34.4 / 54.4 / 44.8mpg 50.4 / 76.3 / 64.2mpg 31.4 / 45.6 / 39.2mpg 51.4 / 68.9 / 61.4mpg 27.2 / 47.1 / 37.2mpg
CO2 emissions/tax bracket 149g / km / 16 per cent 118g / km / 18 per cent 175g / km / 22 per cent 109g / km / 15 per cent 182g / km / 23 per cent
Airbags/Isofix/parking sensors Seven / yes / opt Six / yes / £210 Six / yes / DFO Four / yes / DFO One± / no / £250
Air-con/split-fold rear seats Yes / yes / yes £1,995^ / yes / yes Yes / no / yes £500 / yes / yes Yes / yes / yes
Alloy wheel choices/met paint Seven / opt Eight / £280 One / yes One / £350 One / £325
Auto gearbox/stability/cruise control Opt / yes / no No / £240 / £170 No / yes / no £500 / no / no No / no / no
Multifunc. steering/adjust reach/rake Yes / no / yes £170 / yes / yes Yes / no / yes No / no / yes No / no / no
Optional decals/body colour mirrors Yes / yes Yes / yes Yes / yes No / yes No / yes
Sat nav/CD changer/MP3/Bluetooth Opt / no / yes / yes £1,500 / £290 / y / £870 DFO / £219 / no / no DFO+ / no / yes / no No / £200 / no / no

Fiat 500 1.4 lounge

Posted in Fiat

The 500 isn’t simply a new car; Fiat claims it’s a new way of thinking, and defines the way the Italian firm wants to be seen in the future. And of course, it’s decided to look back to past glories in order to move itself forward. The 500 is unashamedly retro, but then given the success of the MINI, you can hardly blame the Turin-based marque for wanting a share of the action.

And giving buyers what they want has paid off, as the firm has 35,000 advance orders for the newcomer from customers across Europe. That’s largely down to its looks. Smaller and cuter than the MINI, the 500 has a combination of gorgeous detailing and charming lines. It’s a machine that makes people smile when they see it – even those who don’t have much interest in cars.

But the beauty is more than skin deep – the 500 is predicted to get a five-star Euro NCAP crash test rating, while the interior is as bold as the exterior. The cabin is light and airy, thanks to the cream trim, chequered upholstery and body-coloured dash strip. It’s visually appealing and feels well constructed, too – it’s the best built Fiat in years.

There are downsides, though. Quality has improved, but the 500 is no better assembled than the Swift, and a couple of the cubbies are flimsy. There’s not much stowage space, while some of the design, such as the door trims, isn’t as creative as you’d like. The MINI still leads the way for overall attention to detail.

It’s clear that Fiat has taken inspiration from its rival in some areas, though. The 500 boasts a chunky gearknob, classic detailing and simple instruments – and also, unfortunately, equally cramped rear quarters (below). Knee room in the pair is on a par, but the 500’s sloping tailgate reduces headroom, while boot space is only as good as the Aygo’s. The driving position is comfortable, though, as there’s plenty of space and a good view out.

Of course the 1.4-litre engine doesn’t have the same character as the original’s two- cylinder unit, but it sounds suitably peppy, and with 100bhp it produces far more power. That’s enough to send the 500 from 0-60mph in a reasonable 10.7 seconds, but it’s not particularly sporting when compared to the similarly priced Suzuki.

The unit pulls well from 2,500rpm, but throttle response is poor, and when we compared all three of the 500’s engines back-to-back on the launch, the entry-level 1.2-litre and 1.3 diesel both got the nod ahead of this one. The packaging required to cram this model’s six-speed gearbox under the bonnet means the turning circle has grown, so the 500 can’t slot into tight spots as easily as the Aygo. But it is more fun to drive than the Japanese city car. And while the gearshift doesn’t have the precision of the MINI’s, it’s positive, and the brakes are reassuring.

Overall the driving experience, while pleasing, isn’t revolutionary. The 500 offers supermini levels of comfort and refinement in a small package, but it simply doesn’t have the MINI’s sense of fun. The steering lacks feedback, and there’s too much body roll in corners. Of course, in style-led cars such as this, driver appeal isn’t a priority, but it’s a shame the 500 doesn’t have the same bubbly personality as, say, the Panda 100HP.

The 500 is trying to be more grown up than that. It cruises happily at motorway speeds, at which point wind noise isn’t much of an issue. Tyre roar is more noticeable, especially on rougher roads, while the soft rear suspension causes the body to hop and bounce. Prices are still to be confirmed, although as our news story (Page 14) this week reveals, they will be lower than first expected. But there’s no denying that this top-spec Lounge model is well equipped. It comes with seven airbags, stability control and the innovative Blue&Me multimedia system (see Backseat driver, Page 53), so looks good value at an estimated £11,500, especially when you compare it to the £11,610 MINI One, which has far less kit.

But cost won’t count for much when the 500 hits showrooms – customers will be sold on its looks alone. And who can blame them?

Review: Volkswagen Golf GT

Posted in Volkswagen

The humble VW Golf has come a long way over its 30 year history. No longer just an affordable econo-box, the Golf has grown substantially in both size and weight with each new generation and now comes with niceties you’d expect in much more expensive metal. Build quality is better than some luxury makes and even the interior trim and mechanicals are the same as you’ll find in various Audi models.

Despite its budget connotations, VW’s Golf range also gets several new technologies, which most other carmakers are still years away from delivering. Take the new GT. The ‘People’s Car’ can be optioned with a six-speed dual-clutch DSG and is powered by a compact 1.4L ‘twincharger’ powerplant with direct injection FSI technology. The unique design of the supercharged and turbocharged four-cylinder engine puts it on par with larger 2.3L displacement motors in the performance stakes, but no matter how hard we pushed it fuel consumption remained below the 26mpg (9L/100km) mark.

Styling and Interior
To differentiate the new Golf GT, from its more regular stablemates, designers have added a darkened grille section matching the one used on the more powerful GTI and R32 models. The headlights, too, feature blacked out surrounds and sit above a sporty bumper with integrated fog lights. Other touches include a set of 17in multispoke ‘ClassiXs’ alloys fitted with 225mm rubber.

Hop into the cabin and you’re immediately smacked with the rich leather upholstery (optional), efficient and ergonomic dashboard and brushed aluminum handles on the doors and glovebox. There’s also a small boost gauge located in the dash to show when the blowers are kicking in, and a small pair of steering wheel mounted paddles for shifting the gears. Interior space is a major bonus for Golf buyers. The four-door model easily accommodates five passengers, and those taller than six feet will have no trouble sitting in the back.

VW adopts an unusually long 50-hour build time for the Golf lineup, and the result of this shows in the exceptional build quality and high-end feel of the car. Doors shut with a solid thud that exudes quality, and panels fit with surgical precision without a rattle or squeak to be found on even the roughest roads. Our test car was fitted with optional sports bucket seats, and without doubt they’re well worth the money. They make long journeys feel like a short trip down to the shops, with plenty of lateral support around quick corners and comfort for the lower back.

The new engine is the world’s first application of a twincharged FSI powerplant and it also holds the title of delivering the highest output per liter for a production four-cylinder engine. Peak output stands at 168hp (125kW) with maximum torque of 240Nm (177lb-ft) plateauing from a lowly 1,750rpm to 4,500rpm. Remember, this is a 1.4L petrol powered engine but with the low torque characteristics and fuel efficiency of a diesel.

The key to its prowess is the combination of a mechanically driven supercharger for the lower revs with an exhaust driven turbocharger kicking in as revs start to rise. To boost output further, engineers also added a revised version of VW’s FSI direct-injection technology. The end result is the power characteristics of a 2.3L engine but with 20% lower fuel consumption.

The Direct-Shift Gearbox (DSG) is itself a technical marvel. By utilizing two individual clutches that swap intermittently every time the driver moves from an odd numbered gear to an even, the DSG enables smooth acceleration and greater fuel efficiency than conventional manual boxes. The innovative gearbox is not completely without its faults. When accelerating hard from slow speeds or standstill, there can be a small delay before power is transferred to the wheels. This gets very annoying, especially when you come out of turn and the car hesitates before moving on.

On the Road
Apart from the small boost gauge and the odd burp and mechanical whine coming from the exhaust and compressors, there’s nothing much from the driving sensation that alludes to the technical powerhouse that resides beneath the bonnet. Floor the pedal and the needle in the tiny boost gauge flicks almost instantly to the max setting. The crankshaft driven supercharger kicks in immediately, delivering boost pressure of 1.8bar just above idle and providing plenty of shove off the line. Depending on how much power is required, an electromagnetic clutch integrated with the coolant pump decides when to switch from the supercharger to the turbo. This happens somewhere around the 3,500rpm mark, and reverses if engine speeds drops back to the lower regions. Not surprisingly, there’s a constant 200Nm (148lb-ft) of torque available from 1,250rpm that’s still hanging around at 6,000 revs.

Acceleration in any gear is nothing short of amazing. There’s no need to furiously fling up and down the gears every time acceleration is required like you have to do with other engines of this size. Words cannot express the disbelief we felt every time the pedal is dropped. Instead, we’ll let the numbers explain it. Acceleration from 80km/h to 120kmh in fifth gear, for example, was just eight seconds. Reaching 100km/h from standstill takes 7.9seconds, just 0.7seconds off the pace of the more expensive GTI, and cruising at 120km/h only requires a lazy 2,500 revs on the ticker.

Of course, acceleration and straight-line speed is just one aspect of any true performance car but we can safely say that the FWD Golf GT holds its own when it comes to the twisty stuff. The differences between it and the GTI are immediately apparent. Softer suspension sees more lean going into corners but the reserves of torque and near-zero turbo-lag makes driving so much easier thanks to the strong acceleration in the higher gears. The GT doesn’t suffer from the GTI’s torque steer, either, but its steering isn’t as sharp and it requires more effort to prevent understeer. Both cars feature the same ride-height and sit on 17in wheels shod with 225mm Continental rubber, providing more than adequate levels of grip.

Final Verdict
We’d like to say the Golf GT fits in with the affordable performance image but against cheaper alternatives from Asian rivals, the VW hatch is now the premium choice rather than the prudent one. That’s not to say it’s not worth the money, because the Golf GT is a brilliant car. In a world of rising fuel prices it’s good to see carmakers developing cars like this latest Golf, offering oodles of performance while being capable of running on the fumes of an oily rag.