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Sub Compact Cars

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven

2017 Fiat 500C - Driven

Tiny, topless Italian

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.

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2017 Fiat 500C Missoni by Garage Italia Customs

2017 Fiat 500C Missoni by Garage Italia Customs

One-off creation fetches huge bid in auction to benefit AIDS research

The fashion and automotive worlds have crossed paths many times in the past, often in the form of special edition creations such as this Fiat 500C. The ventures have not always yielded good results, but all of them are magnets for attention, for better or worse. The latest in a long line of these special editions come by way of Garage Italia Customs, which created this bedazzling 500C in the name of fashion designer Angela Missoni, the creative director of the Italian brand that wears the same name.

Those who are familiar with the Missoni fashion brand will know that it prides itself on colorful design palettes, something that we see in all its glory on the 500C. Garage Italia Customs’ treatment is also what you’d expect from an automotive custom shop whose past design works include the Fiat 500 Paco Rabanne Edition, another glistening collaboration with the fashion and automotive industries. The Missoni-inspired 500C is colorful to a hilt, and whether you like it or not, it received enough attention to gather what Garage Italia Customs called a “generous” bid when it was auctioned off at the ninth annual charity event organized by amfAR in Milan, Italy last September 21. The proceeds of the car’s auction are earmarked for AIDS research, so whoever ended up paying the “generous” amount to take home this one-off 500C should be happy that his money is going to the right place. Even better, he gets to take home arguably one of the most colorful Fiat 500Cs to come out in recent memory.

Continue after the jump to read more about the Fiat 500C Missoni by Garage Italia Customs

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2017 Brabus Ultimate E Concept

2017 Brabus Ultimate E Concept

Could this concept be the future that we’ve always wanted from Smart?

In the 23 years that it’s been around, Smart has become a staple in urban cities, fulfilling its mission of being a purveyor of affordable compact cars. But like most car brands, Smart has a sporty and aggressive alter ego, though one that we rarely get to see. It just so happened that one such example was presented at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show by noted tuner Brabus. It’s called the Brabus Ultimate E Concept, and it’s an absolute humdinger.

Okay, so I know what you’re thinking. “It’s a Smart ForTwo. ‘Humdinger’ isn’t exactly the kind of word I’d use to describe it.” You’d be right about that, but you’d also be wrong in assuming that the Ultimate E Concept is nothing more than a dressed up ForTwo wearing a Brabus kit. It’s way more than what it appears to be, and we have Brabus and its partner-in-crime in this project, Kreisel Electric, to thank for that. This concept – it really shouldn’t be a concept – represents the pinnacle of what the Smart ForTwo can become if it adopts new technologies and embraces its inner id in the process. Think a 200-horsepower Smart ForTwo is still the stuff of dreams and fantasies? Think again. Smart has come a long way since it started in 1994. I can’t tell for certain if the Brabus Ultimate E Concept is the future, but if it is, then that future just became mighty exciting.

Continue after the jump to read the full story.

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New Suzuki Swift Puts On Aggressive Suit In Frankfurt

New Suzuki Swift Puts On Aggressive Suit In Frankfurt

Will make you forget about the Polo GTi and Fiesta ST

While most Japanese automakers are enjoying success in both the United States and Europe, Suzuki hasn’t been doing particularly well in recent years. But that’s not to say that it hasn’t been trying. The last couple of years brought three brand-new Suzuki vehicles into dealerships — the Ignis, Baleno, and Swift — and the Japanese firm may be on its way to a better future, at least in some markets. Come 2017 and Suzuki is pushing things a bit further with a redesigned version of the Swift Sport.

The higher performance version of the small hatchback broke cover at the 2017 Frankfurt Motor Show, and it’s more appealing than ever. The new Swift design is perfect for the hot hatch treatment, and even though the performance might not be on par with the likes of the Polo GTi, the Swift Sport sure looks like it could outgun the competition. Of course, looks won’t it help it go faster, but it’s a significant progression compared to previous iterations of the Swift Sport. And, it’s worth looking into.

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Brabus Goes Electric With The Ultimate E Concept

Brabus Goes Electric With The Ultimate E Concept

A promising interpretation of the traditionally mundane ForTwo

You know the electric revolution in the auto industry is looking more and more like a real thing when aftermarket tuners, usually the last defenders of traditional gas-powered engines, start to slowly embrace the prospect of tuning electric cars. Brabus isn’t quite there yet, but one of its offerings for the Frankfurt Motor Show points exactly to that kind of future. The model is called the Brabus Ultimate E Concept, and while it does take its roots from the smart ForTwo, this creation is more about what the tuner can do moving forward more than it is a showcase of smart’s expanding portfolio.

To be fair, there are a number of interesting items in the Ultimate E Concept. It’s all dressed up in a swath of fancy aero bits, making it look a lot more dynamic than a run-of-the-mill ForTwo. It even has an eye-catching yellow paint that a Mercedes-AMG GT R would be proud to wear. The real highlight of the concept though is its drivetrain. Don’t go looking for a combustion engine in there because it’s long gone. In its place is a full electric powertrain that Brabus developed in collaboration with Kreisel Electric. The result is a car that can produce 201 horsepower and 258 pound-feet of torque, making it one of the most powerful versions of the smart ForTwo in the world. For a car that’s never been considered exciting, the Brabus’ Ultimate E Concept looks to be one way to inject some life into the little ride.

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2018 BMW i3

2018 BMW i3

New tech and a performance-oriented model keeps things fresh

The BMW i3 was introduced in 2013 and was the company’s first zero emissions, mass-produced vehicle. Part of BMW’s then-new sub-brand, BMW i, which also includes the i8 sports car, the i3 was also the first volume production vehicle to feature carbon-fiber-reinforced polymer (CFRP). A five-door hatchback with a 125-kW electric motor, the i3 is available optionally with a range-extending, two-cylinder engine and a small fuel tank. The city car has had great success on the market, ranking third among EVs sold globally from 2014 to 2016. Sales reached 50,000 units in 2016 and surpassed 70,000 examples in 2017, when the i3 became the world’s third best selling electric car. For 2018, BMW rolled out a significant upgrade that adds new styling features and a revised powertrain.

Received with great enthusiasm and praised for its premium appointments — in contrast to many small EVs being rather mundane in this regard — the i3 won several awards in its first year on the market. On the flipside, the German firm received its fair share of criticism for the car’s bumpy ride, high price, and limited practicality. Did BMW fix some of the EV’s issues with this mid-cycle facelift? Join me in the review below to find out.

Continue reading to learn more about the BMW i3.

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The new Suzuki Swift Is Lighter and More Fuel Efficient

The new Suzuki Swift Is Lighter and More Fuel Efficient

Could be a solid alternative to the Polo and Fiesta

Although not the best looking and most practical car out there, the Suzuki Swift has been a popular choice in some European market thanks to its affordable sticker and cheap maintenance. It has fallen a bit too far behind the competition in recent years, but the new-generation Swift that just made its European debut at the 2017 Geneva Motor Show should put Suzuki back on the map in the challenging subcompact hatchback segment.

As we learned back in December 2016 when the car made its global debut in Japan, the new Swift is a big step forward in terms of styling, following in the footsteps for the similarly sized Baleno. The hatchback also rides on new underpinnings that are about 15 percent lighter and provide better driving dynamics and help improve fuel economy.

The dated styling of the previous Swift is finally gone, replaced by modern features and an overall sportier stance. The smaller headlamps, the larger grille, and the dynamic looking front bumper give the Swift a front fascia that can stand out next to any other competitor in this segment. Although simple, the rear section feels fresh and practical at the same time, with the wider tailgate providing easier access to the trunk.

The cabin is also a big improvement over the previous design. The larger infotainment screen, the round A/C vents and the sportier instrument cluster make the Swift a nice place to spend time in. Tech includes a new infotainment system with Apple CarPlay connectivity, maps, music, and USB port.

As usual, motivation is provided by small-displacement engines, starting with the 1.2-liter Dualijet rated at 89 horsepower and 89 pound-feet. The 1.0-liter, three-cylinder Boosterjet with 109 horses and 125 pound-feet is available in the more expensive trims. Just like the Baleno, the Swift uses the SHVS mild hybrid system with lower emissions. Suzuki also introduced a revised version of its AllGrip Auto four-wheel-drive system, which transfers additional torque to the rear wheels when required via a viscous coupling.

Pricing is not yet available, but the new Swift goes on sale in the U.K. on June 1st.

Continue reading for the full story.

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2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

2017 Smart ForTwo Electric Drive

More power, enhanced range, faster recharging

The third-generation Smart ForTwo arrived in 2014 with significant changes over its predecessor. Co-developed with French carmaker Renault, it received a more traditional exterior design with a longer front hood, a revamped interior, and three new engines. Much like its predecessor, it also spawned a convertible and AMG version, and at the 2016 Paris Motor Show, Smart unveiled an all-electric variant.

Called the ForTwo Electric Drive (or ED), the emission-free car uses a brand-new electric drivetrain with enhanced output and increased range. For the first time, the electric motor is also offered in the convertible versions, making the ForTwo the only electric cabriolet on the market. What’s more, because the same drivetrain is also available in the larger ForFour model, Smart is the only car manufacturer to offer its entire model range with both combustion engines and battery-electric drive. Not that it would be difficult having just two vehicles, but it’s still a noteworthy achievement.

The new ForTwo Electric Drive will arrive in the United States in 2017. The coupe version will debut in the spring, while the cabriolet model will hit dealerships in the summer. Until that happens, let’s have a closer look at the smallest EV on the market and how it stacks up compared to its predecessor and main competitors.

Continue reading to learn more about the Smart ForTwo Electric Drive.

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2017 Electra Meccanica Solo

2017 Electra Meccanica Solo

It’s a cool three-wheel car from Canada with decent electric range

Coming straight out of Canada is a new and innovative take on the EV that is aimed at making EV ownership simple, fun, and affordable. Meet the Electra Meccanica SOLO. Powered by an all-electric drivetrain and riding on three wheels, this funky little city car is the work of Jerry Kroll, formally of KleenSpeed Technologies, and Henry Reisner, the President of Intermeccanica Inc. Featuring a striking exterior design, an interior suited for just one person, and an 84-horsepower electric motor, this EV isn’t aimed at combating the Tesla Model S, or even the Nissan Leaf. Instead of attempting to replace your gas-guzzling family hauler, the SOLO is all about personal transportation and making your daily commute simple and efficient.

When speaking of the Solo, Henry Reisner, who is also the COO of Electra Meccanica, said, “It has appeal for driving enthusiasts, practical commuters, and the environmentally conscious. We believe the SOLO will become the commuter vehicle of choice for the masses. The vehicle is non-­polluting, very economical to operate, and people will have a heck of a good time driving it too.”

Now, by saying “heck of a good time,” he’s not insinuating that you’ll outrun most of the sports cars out there, but it does hit 62 mph in about eight seconds, which really isn’t bad for a car with one-wheel drive and 84 horsepower, right? On top of this, it also has pretty modern technology inside that includes an LCD instrument cluster, Bluetooth, and USB connectivity, and there’s even a rear-view camera system. It’s really not that bad for a vehicle with a sub-$20,000 price tag. But, there’s a lot more to talk about than the few tidbits we’ve discussed here, so let’s dive on into the world’s newest, single-seater, EV.

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2017 Smart Fortwo Sport Package by Brabus

2017 Smart Fortwo Sport Package by Brabus

The little car that could is about to get a little sportier

The Smart Fortwo is a funky little city car that has a rear-mounted engine, two seats, and a hatch. To put it simply, it’s nothing more than a cockpit on wheels, but in busy, crowded cities, the car is perfect for those who can manage to fit in it. Originally introduced in 1998, the car has seen two generational changes with the most recent coming in the 2014 model year. For 2016, Smart introduced the convertible or Cabriolet variant that ditched the rear hatch for a retractable top. For the most part, the Fortwo is a pretty simple car. It is available with two different three-cylinder engines that deliver between 71 and 90 horses and can be equipped with a five-speed manual or a dual clutch automatic.

For such a tiny car, the interior is actually rather spacious, and it has a certain level of luxury too. Now, with the 2017 model year right around the corner, Brabus is offering a new Sport package for the Fortwo Coupe and Cabriolet that promises to bring a new level of customization to Smart customers everywhere. It is said to bring “unique styling and a sportier driving experience,” but it is a micro city car, so I’m not really sure I’m comfortable using words like “sport” in that context.

Of course, I’m pretty critical about what automakers and do to their vehicles, so before I get too far ahead of myself, let’s take a good look at this new sport package and what it brings to the table.

Keep reading to learn about Brabus’ new Sport package for the 2017 Smart Fortwo

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2016 Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car

2016 Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car

We knew Mercedes was working on an electric car but this is ridiculous

If you’re a golfer or someone who lives in a senior suburban community, you’re well aware that golf carts, for the most part, have carried on practically unchanged for years. Sure, they have gained radios and more advanced electric drivetrains, but the general design and capabilities have been unaltered. All that could very well change in the near future and, if so, it will happen at the hands of none other than Mercedes-Benz and Garia. That’s right, the luxury manufacturer has gone out of its way to design a “golf car” prototype that will move into series production should it garner enough interest from the market and general public.

For those of you who don’t know, Garia is actually a well-known golf cart manufacturer, and will actually be in charge of production. The company is building two prototypes of this “golf car” now and will be responsible for the for the series production in the future. The golf car that you see here was penned by MB designers, Daimler’s Think & Act Tank Business Innovation, and Garia itself. It all started back in 2013 when MB asked the public to submit their own designs for a Mercedes-Benz golf cart. It took a few years for MB to come up with its own design, but here we are.

Dr. Jens Thiemer, the Vice President of Marketing for Mercedes Cars, said, “With the Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car we are offering a high-end golf cart which is absolutely unique and was specifically developed for sporting golfers and the sport they enjoy."

With that said, let’s take a good look at what could be the next evolutionary stage of the golf cart and see just what Mercedes has in mind.

Continue reading to learn more about the Mercedes-Benz Style Edition Garia Golf Car.

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2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet

2017 Smart Fortwo Cabriolet

The new Fortwo Cabriolet is said to be the most affordable convertible on the market

Smart took the automotive world by surprise when it unveiled the ForTwo Cabrio at the 1999 Frankfurt Motor Show. A year later, the Germans launched the smallest production cabriolet, taking the micro car industry into a new era. It’s been 15 years since then and Smart has revealed the third-generation ForTwo Cabrio, which is set to break cover officially at the 2015 Frankfurt Motor Show in September.

Based on the third-gen 2015 Smart ForTwo we already saw in 2014, the ForTwo Cabrio has been redesigned from the ground up. The styling is all-new inside and out, the chassis has been rebuilt for greater comfort, while the drivetrains are both more powerful and fuel-efficient.

"Our new smart cabrio really exudes joie de vivre in the city – which is what our brand stands for", said Dr. Annette Winkler, head of the Smart brand. "I am sure that we will delight our present 220,000 cabrio customers and win lots of new fans with this successful lifestyle icon."

The micro convertible will arrive on U.S. soil in the first half of 2016, a few months after it goes on sale in Europe. By the time it hits showrooms on this side of the Atlantic, it will join the ForTwo coupe, set to reach U.S. soil at the end of September 2015, and the 2015 Smart Fortwo Brabus Tailor Made program the brand announced earlier this year.

Update 06-29-2016: Mercedes has announced pricing for the 2017 Smart Fortwo Cabrio. Check out the prices section below for details.

Continue reading to learn more about Smart ForTwo Cabrio.

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