Economic downturn or not, 2012 promises to be a bumper year for new car launches.
Over the next few days, Autocar.co.uk will highlight the new offerings from each manufacturer and assess each car’s prospects in a market that is becoming increasingly hotly contested.
Today we start with city cars and superminis, two market sectors in which major new launches such as the Fiat Panda and Volkswagen Up are set to make waves during the year ahead.
For the full 18-page run-down of new cars for 2012, don’t miss this week’s Autocar magazine, which is on sale today (4 January).
Citroën C1 facelift
A very mild tweak will freshen the Citroën C1 city car next month, creating breathing space before an all-new C1 arrives in 2013. Scoops of that car suggest a strong step upmarket, with bigger dimensions to close the gap on the C3 supermini and rivals like the 3.6m-long Renault Twingo. This will also make space in the range for a new, back-to-basics hatchback that is due to arrive in 2013-2014 and be positioned between the C1 and C3.
An all-new Fiat Panda hits UK showrooms in April. Read Autocar's first drive of the 2012 Fiat Panda here. Longer than today’s model, at 3.53m overall, it is also taller and wider. A split/sliding rear seat makes the most of the bigger dimensions and the front passenger seat can be folded flat. There will be three petrol engines and a diesel. The petrols are an 875cc, two-cylinder TwinAir putting out 85bhp with a turbo and 65bhp without, and a 69bhp 1.2-litre four. The 75bhp 1.3 Multijet diesel will feature stop-start. An early drive of the new car suggests that it improves on the weakest areas of the old model while retaining its endearing features. Production is switching from Poland to Alfa’s former factory in Naples, which raises quality worries. Prices are tipped to start from about £8500.
Renault Twingo facelift
Nissan Juke-style large, round foglamps spruce up the front of the Renault Twingo this month. Also new is a 900cc, three-cylinder economy engine. Read Autocar's first drive of the 2012 Renault Twingo here. Given the dramatic news about Renault cutting back its model range this year, the revised Twingo needs to be a success.
Not really a car, but the Renault Twizy will spearhead Renault’s EV thrust when it appears in April. See Autocar's video review of the Renault Twizy here. The two-seat commuter will be cheap, starting from £6500, plus £40 per month for the battery. Its performance matches that of a 125cc scooter and the range is claimed to be 60 miles.
Seat returns to the city car segment in May with the all-new Seat Mii, seven years after it dropped the Arosa. Different grille and headlamp details differentiate the Mii from its Skoda and VW clones. Read Autocar's first drive of the 2012 Seat Mii here. The engines will mirror these two’s, with a 1.0-litre, three-pot engine making either 59bhp or 74bhp. There will be three trim levels and two option packs. Prices will start from just under £8k. The five-door version arrives in November.
Skoda’s version of the VW Group city car, the Skoda Citigo, will be launched in the summer, moving the company into a new market segment. Priced from £7k. it is distinguished by a different grille and mild tweaks to the headlamps and rear window shape. In 74bhp guise, the Citigo is fun to drive and well engineered and it fits the bill as an agile city car. Read Autocar's first drive of the Skoda Citigo here. Official economy is 60mpg. The less powerful 59bhp version is little harsher to drive but fuel economy is better, at 62mpg. Inside, the Citigo features a novel, removable mini-tablet device with a five-inch screen that doubles as phone, sat-nav, trip computer and audio controller.