2017 Volkswagen Golf TSI SEL — Driven
When my friends talk about compact hatchbacks, sometimes the Volkswagen Golf gets left out of the conversation. But it really shouldn’t be that way: The Golf is far and away the best-selling compact in Europe. There are good reasons for that, not least of which is the Golf’s supreme practicality.
Here in America, we don’t get quite as many Golf variants as Europe does. We get the highlights, though: regular Golf, sporty GTI, raucous Golf R, cargo-friendly Golf Sportwagen, and most recently, soft-road-ready Golf Alltrack.
Volkswagen has sent me two Golf Rs in the last year. You might consider those the most evolved version of the car, in terms of overall performance. Fast and fun to toss around the twisties, the R also happens to be the most expensive version of the Golf — expect to pay $40,000 if you want one. But this time, VW sent me a regular Golf TSI SEL, a luxurious hatchback without all the high-performance hype — and it’s 25% cheaper than the Golf R, even though it’s loaded with options. It proved itself to be a great little transportation pod for my family of four.
Fisker’s New Battery Patent Promises 500-Mile Range; One-Minute Charging
Fisker, the company that has worked diligently to bring about a dead-to-rights Tesla Model S fighter, has just announced a new battery patent that promises a new technology capable of ranges exceeding 500 miles and one-minute recharging. Let me say that again: One-minute recharging.
Details are still rather thin at this point, but we have learned that Fisker’s new power storage technology will allow the company to build solid-state batteries with lots of surface area in comparison to the current thin-film solid-state electrodes currently in development and use. This ultimately means better conductivity below the shell which, in turn, makes for a battery that works better in cold weather and charges faster. Keep in mind; this is why lithium-ion batteries are the go-to right now for EVs – the current capabilities of solid-state batteries are insufficient and low conductivity levels is a primary cause of this. So, if what Fisker is saying is true, the company could have just solved a very big problem and could, very well, usher in the next generation of battery technology.
Of course, Fisker isn’t the only company gunning for solid-state batteries, and Toyota has even promised its battery would be put to use in electric cars by 2022, just two years sooner than what Fisker claims it can do. Then again, Toyota hasn’t proved its technology, so it still has the same burden that has now be thrust onto Fisker’s shoulders as well. It’s obviously an arms race in which the winner will reign supreme in the EV world. In the end, Fisker if lofting out claims for density 2.5 times that of current lithium-ion batters, which means these babies could charge in minutes and offer up ranges of 500 miles. Just think, you can pull into a “gas station” and by the time you make up your hot dogs, buy a beverage, and take a leak, you’re EV is good for another 500 miles. Range Anxiety? Not in this future. The question now is: Who’s going to deliver on these lofty promises first?
Toyota still has a few years, and the man behind Fisker isn’t exactly working with a full deck of successful resumes either. He hasn’t exactly been the most successful cat on the street, and he promises an advanced battery in the Emotion just to retract his claims. But, for EVs to be truly successful, this is the kind of technology we need, and if we’re really this close – Toyota claims 2022 and Fisker 2024 – we’ll certainly be seeing it happen in most of our lifetimes. And, once that technology is there, there isn’t really a need for the ICE anymore either now is there?
Have something on your mind? Let us know in the comments section below. We’re curious as to what you think about these hefty claims.
2017 Fiat 500C - Driven
Dated and diminutive it may be, but the Fiat 500 remains a frugal and fun — and tiny — car. Adding a canvas top to the pint-size Cinquecento just increases the smiles-per-gallon it generates.
As a cheap-and-cheerful commuter, the Fiat 500 has long been a favorite of mine for its European style and driving characteristics. Among cars in its price range, the little Italian remains near the top of my fun-to-drive list. The Fiat 500C has even more charm thanks to its fully retractable roof.
For 2017, Fiat simplified the 500 lineup to just three trims: base-level Pop, leather-trimmed Lounge, and sporty Abarth. All are available with the “C” designation, which stands for “Cabrio.” In prior years, there were twice as many trims available. Most of the equipment from those additional trims is still available in the options list.
2018 Hyundai Accent
First introduced in 1994 as a replacement for the Hyundai Excel, the Accent has seen a total of four previous generations, selling under a variety of names across several markets worldwide. Also known as the Verna in India and China, the Solaris in Russia, and the Grand Avega in Indonesia, among other names, the Accent has always been a staple of the subcompact segment, offering both a sedan and hatchback body style. Measured against its peers, the Accent is known for offering solid features and a smooth, comfortable ride, as well as slick styling on later model years. Now, the Accent just broke cover at the Orange County International Auto Show, entering its fifth generation. With the changeover, Hyundai says it focused on sharpening the design and aesthetic, upgrading the technology for entertainment and safety purposes, increasing the efficiency of the powertrain, lowering NVH levels, and a increasing driver engagement.
Essentially, Hyundai hopes to improve the Accent in just about every way possible with this latest refresh. And with a plethora of competing models waiting to go head-to-head with Hyundai, it makes sense that the South Korean brand wants to bring it’s A-game. Read on for the details on what that entails.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2018 Hyundai Accent.
The 2018 Subaru Crosstrek is Insanely Practical But Kinda Dull to Drive
This past week has seen Subaru’s all-new 2018 Crosstrek in my driveway. It’s the high-riding Impreza with more ground clearance than a Jeep Grand Cherokee (though only by 0.1 inches) and a Boxer engine under the hood. Now in its second generation, the 2018 Crosstrek rides on Subaru’s new Global Platform and is powered by a 2.0-liter naturally aspirated flat four-cylinder claimed to be 80 percent new. A new six-speed manual gearbox replaces the old five-speed and a Continuously Variable Transmission returns as the option. Both outside and in, the 2018 Crosstrek is highly improved and impressively capable at being a better crossover than most crossovers on the market. But as it turns out, the Crosstrek isn’t that fun to drive.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise when realizing the 2.0-liter Boxer only muster 152 horsepower at 6,000 rpm and 145 pound-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm. Despite the Crosstrek’s meager 3,300-pound curb weight, the naturally aspirated engine wheezes its way through the CVT’s seven artificial ratios. Despite being mostly new and now having direct fuel injection, the little flat-four is simply underpowered. The lack of power is exacerbated by the CVT’s smooth, long, boring “shifts” that prioritize fuel economy over all else. I desperately want to try the six-speed manual, but even that can’t rectify the missing horsepower.
What the Crosstrek needs is the WRX’s 2.0-liter turbocharged four-cylinder. It’s good for 268 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque. Pair that with the WRX’s sweet six-speed manual gearbox, and you’d have a Crosstrek that’s ready for a WRC Rally. Subaru could brand it the Crosstrek STi and boom – an instant halo car. While the extra power wouldn’t help with fuel economy, the added “cool” factor would bring more people to the Crosstrek lineup, even if they weren’t buying the STi version. Halo models are proven to improve sales in lesser models.
Admittedly, the Crosstrek and its lackadaisical CVT really appealed to my wife. “I love the way it shifts,” she exclaimed the first time she rode in it. “You can’t feel it at all, and I really like that.” While she might be the Crosstrek’s target audience, it’s hard to ignore the missing performance version Subaru should deliver. Combine that power with its well-appointed and comfy interior with its vastly improved infotainment system, 55.3-cubic feet of cargo room, and extra inch of rear-seat legroom afforded by the new Global Platform, and Subaru would surely have a hit.
I truly admire the 2018 Crosstrek and have very few complaints beyond its powertrain, but boy, the potential this vehicle has is astounding. As for its driving experience and other notable features, I’ll have more on that in the coming days here on TopSpeed.
2017 Volkswagen GLI - Driven
The Volkswagen GLI is kind of like the Volkswagen GTI hot hatch — only, no hatch. Instead of throwing a lot of go-quick goodies into a Golf, the VW skunkworks had its way with a Jetta. The result is a seriously fun compact sedan that won’t break the bank.
Just a few weeks ago, I drove the more pedestrian Volkswagen Jetta SE 1.4T with a five-speed manual transmission. The GLI I drove for this review was unfortunately an automatic, but in all other ways was quicker and more engaging to drive than its easygoing sibling — which is not to say I found the regular Jetta boring to drive. I might go so far as to say I preferred the Jetta 1.4T over most compact, front-wheel drive cars I have reviewed in recent years.
Among compact sedans with hotted-up chassis and engine components, the GLI might just make it 2-for-2 for Volkswagen.
2017 Seat Ibiza
First put into production in 1984, the Ibiza is one of Seat’s most successful models. In the 33 years it’s been on the market, the Spanish automaker has managed to move as many as 5.4 million examples of the Ibiza. That’s an impressive number, with a total of four generations coming and going over the years. Now, there’s a new fifth generation, which saw a debut earlier this year at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show following a reveal at the island that provided the car’s namesake, Ibiza, off the eastern coast of Spain. This refreshed entry in the supermini segment sees improvements across the board and was created in order to offer customers higher levels of safety, a fresh aesthetic, greater performance, and more comfort as well. Both gas and diesel powerplants are available, while a seven-speed automatic transmission and the latest smartphone support are on the table as well. Under the skin is a brand new platform, courtesy of Seat’s parent company, Volkswagen Auto Group.
Of course, as one of Seat’s most popular models, the trick is to add to what’s already there without taking away anything from the outgoing model. As such, the question is this – does the new Ibiza have the same spark as the old? Read on to find out.
Continue reading to learn more about the 2017 Seat Ibiza.
Toyota Partners With Mazda to Develop EVs
Toyota and Mazda just announced a new partnership wherein the Japanese automakers will jointly develop electric vehicles. The partnership also includes a forthcoming $1.6 billion assembly plant at an as of yet unannounced location, with production scheduled to ramp up by the year 2021. The plant will create upwards of 300,000 vehicles annually and employ roughly 4,000 U.S. workers, prompting a Tweet from President Trump, who praised the announcement as a “great investment in American manufacturing.” The plant will initially build models of the Toyota Corolla and a new Mazda SUV, with the possibility for EVs sometime in the future. The partnership includes a 5 percent stake in Mazda for Toyota and a 0.25 percent stake in Toyota for Mazda, with the possibility for expansion in the future. Toyota and Mazda will also work together in developing infotainment tech and autonomous driving tech.
The partnership is framed as a major step forward for EV development for both companies. “There will be new rivals appearing – Apple, Google – these are IT companies, we also need to compete with them, too,” said Toyota President Akio Toyoda, according to Reuters. “What’s different from the past is that there are no nautical charts for us to follow. It’s without precedent,” he added with regards to EV tech and alternative vehicle power sources. Without a doubt, this new partnership marks further expansion of the EV segment as a whole and the expectation of widespread EV adoption in the near future.
Continue reading for the full story.
2016 - 2018 Mazda3
Standing out in the world of compacts is no easy feat. The corner-cutting measures it takes to offer a product at a competitive price in this segment can quickly demote a car to drab background filler. Throw in the customer’s demand to “do it all,” from sporting fun to commuting practicality, and what you’re left with can often feel like too much of a compromise. That’s not the case with the Mazda3, which combines standout styling, top-notch safety, cutting-edge interior appointment and fantastic driving dynamics into one cohesive package, all for an aggressive price. For 2016, Mazda kept all those characteristics, but upped the ante with a variety of new features, both standard and optional.
Mazda3 was originally introduced in 2003 as a replacement for the Protégé, with a second generation unveiled five years later. Now in its third generation, the 3 continues to be one of the best compact cars on the market. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that Automotive News reports annual U.S. sales of the Mazda3 have overtaken gains in the compact market as a whole, with growth of 5.2 percent compared to a 3.1 percent average for all other segment models. So then – what makes it so good?
Updated 08/02/2017: Mazda just released info on the 2018 model year Mazda3. Check it out below!
Continue reading to learn more about the Mazda3.
Tesla Model 3 Handover Party Kicks Off at 8:45 PM PST Tonight!
The Tesla Model 3 is hands-down the most anticipated model of the year, promising to bring an affordable EV to the masses. It’s been a long time coming, but today is the day that the handover party kicks off and Tesla will hand over the keys to the first 30 models to roll off of the line. It’s obviously a very small first step, considering the hundreds of thousands of reservations, but it’s only a matter of time before Tesla really ramps up production. The party kicks off at 8:45 PM PST tonight and will be live streamed right on Tesla’s homepage.
The Model 3, which will finally be completely revealed later tonight, is basically a smaller, more basic version of the Model S, and has a set starting price of $35,000. As far as the exterior goes, it’s rather bland, just like the interior which is about as spartan as they come. It will be void of an instrument cluster, speedometer, or a conventional dashboard. Initial customers of the new baby EV will also be limited as far as options go, with the only choices to make being exterior color and wheel choice. As far as tonight’s event goes, there’s no word as to who the first 30 customers are, but we know the first model is going Elon Musk himself, as Tesla board member Ira Ehrenpreis gifted his place in the queue to the big guy. As far as the other 29 models, they will go to Tesla employees or current owners of other Tesla EVs. We’ll be sure to embed the live steam to this video as soon as we have it, but until then, keep reading to learn a little more about the Model 3.
An Electric Sports Car From Skoda Could Be What The Doctor Ordered
Skoda may not be the first automaker you think of when it comes to an all-electric sports car, but you might have to recalibrate those thoughts because, for the first time in the company’s history, an all-electric sports car is not only on the table, it could arrive sooner than we think. That was the sentiment expressed by Christian Strube, the company’s head of technical development, who told Auto Express that the Czech automaker is preparing a zero-emissions performance car that will part of a family of EV models the company plans to roll out in the next decade.
Specific details were not revealed, but the prevailing thought within Skoda seems to be grounded on the goal of diversifying its portfolio to include a good amount of electric vehicles. As it stands, there’s already some movement on bringing an EV version of the Citigo by 2019 and a production version of the Vision E SUV concept that the company unveiled at the Shanghai Motor Show a year later. One more electric SUV is expected to follow suit before the all-electric sports car hits the market. As for the planned EV sports car, the plan is for the car to use the company’s MEB electric architecture, the same platform that will be widely used across a range of models under the Volkswagen Group. Power numbers have yet to be mentioned, but expect it to fall right in the same neighborhood as the 300-horsepower Vision E concept. At the very least, look for the Skoda EV sports car to have at least two electric motors, each mounted on one of the front axles.
Continue after the jump to read the full story.
Chevy Bolt Puts Nissan Leaf to Shame; Comes with 238-Mile Range
In early 2015, Chevrolet unveiled the Bolt EV Concept and promised it would become the first affordable electric car with more than 200 miles of range. Less than two years have passed since then and its seems that GM will keep its promise and deliver a production Bolt with an EPA-estimated range of 238 miles. That’s a whopping 131 miles more than the Nissan Leaf, a popular offering on the EV market, and the best mileage you’ll be able to get on an affordable car for the 2017 model year.
Speaking of pricing, Chevy says the Bolt is expected to cost less than $37,500. That’s before the available federal tax credit of $7,500, meaning some buyers will be able to take one home for less than $30,000. That’s significantly more expensive than the Volt and Spark EV, which can be had for as low as $25,750 and $18,495, respectively, but neither can provide the Bolt’s 200-mile range. While the Volt can travel for only 53 miles on electricity alone, the Spark EV is rated at 82 miles. The only EV that can deliver something similar is the Tesla Model S, but the base model, which is rated at 210 miles, starts from $66,000 before incentives.
This makes the Bolt quite an attractive package, at least until Tesla begins production of the Model 3 in late 2017.
As for Chevy’s electric hatchback, it will arrive in showroom in late 2016. However, the Bolt will be sold in select dealerships only, meaning you might not be able to buy it at the nearest Chevrolet showroom. Stay tuned for more info as the Bolt makes its way onto the production line.
Continue reading for the full story.
Study Finds That One In Six New Cars Need To Be Electric By 2020 To Meet Global Standards
In a bid to curb the effects of climate change and cut back on greenhouse gas emissions, the U.S., European Union, and China are all setting goals to increase the average fuel economy of new cars. These three countries are the largest consumers of passenger vehicles in the world, and according to a study published by the World Energy Council, all three will need to substantially boost the adoption of electric vehicles to meet their respective goals.
The study, published this past June as part of a series of assessments on “key issues and technologies in the transport sector,” takes into account improvements in internal combustion efficiency and points to battery electric vehicles (BEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs) as viable solutions to the issue of decreasing emissions.
“There are a variety of clean vehicle technologies and fuels under development and in use, but electric vehicles represent one of the most promising technologies for reducing oil use and cutting emissions,” the report states. The organization goes on to say that EVs can help boost energy security and improve local air quality.
According to the study, 16 percent of all new cars sold by 2020 will need to be either a BEV or PHEV in order to achieve the stated emissions goals. That’s a massive jump from the current average of less 1 percent, especially in the given four-year timespan.
Continue reading to for the full story.
2017 - 2018 Audi A3 Sedan
The Audi A3 came to life in 1996, and was originally offered as a three-door hatchback. It was built on Volkswagen’s Group A platform, which means its underpinnings were shared with cars like the Audi TT, Volkswagen Golf, Seat Toledo, and even the Skoda Octavia. As time went on, a five-door hatchback was added to the lineup, as well as a cabriolet.
The A3 went through a third-generation overhaul for the 2012 model year, and in 2013, we were introduced to the A3 sedan at the 2013 New York Auto Show. The sedan went on sale in Germany and the U.K. later that year, and now after just a couple short years, it looks like the A3 Sedan is up for a facelift.
We saw the most recent spy shots of the new Audi A3 doing some cold weather testing back in December, and now, Audi has finally unveiled the new A3 and lots of juicy details about it. The update to the A3 comes complete with new driver assistance systems, a new range of engines, and some redesigned features outside. On top of all that, Audi has finally integrated the Audi virtual cockpit into the A3. The new A3 is available in Sportback, three-door, and Cabriolet forms, as well as the popular sedan form that we’re about to talk about going forward. So with that said, let’s take a walk around the new A3 and see just what we can get excited about.
Update 08/12/2016: Audi has announced pricing for the facelifted A3 Sedan. Check out the prices section below for details.
Continue reading to learn more about the Audi A3 Sedan.