Currently reading: Star cars 2012, part three
Part three of Autocar's guide to the new cars of 2012 examines hot hatches, coupés, executive cars

This week is highlighting the new-for-2012 offerings from each manufacturer and assessing each car’s prospects in a market that is becoming increasingly hotly contested.

Part three, below, rounds up all the hot hatches, coupes and executive cars we’re looking forward to seeing in 2012.

If you missed part one, which covered city cars and superminis, click here to read it.

Part two examined all the family cars and MPVs, and you can read that by clicking here.

For the full 18-page run-down of new cars for 2012, don’t miss this week’s Autocar magazine,, which is on sale now.

Hot hatches and coupes

Audi A1 quattro

Powered by a scorching 252bhp 2.0-litre turbo, the Audi A1 quattro promises to match hot hatches in the class above for both pace and handling. Just 333 will be built, in left-hand-drive form only. It’s due in Europe in the second half of this year – Audi will decide later this month whether it’s going to import any of them to the UK.

Citroën DS3 cabriolet

It looks as if the soft-top version of the Citroën DS3 hatch won’t arrive until 2013 at the earliest, although a concept might be shown at the Paris show in September. Sources suggest that the roof might be similar to the roll-back design used so successfully on the Fiat 500C.

Fiat Abarth 595 Turismo and Competizione

Two special editions of the 500 that combine elements of the super-exclusive £30k Tributo Ferrari with a lower price. Both the Fiat Abarth 595 Turismo and Competizione are powered by a 157bhp turbocharged 1.4-litre engine and are due next month. The Turismo features a two-tone paint job, robotised manual gearbox and 17in wheels; the Competizione has upgraded Brembo brakes, a conventional five-speed manual ’box and 17in wheels. Prices have yet to be confirmed.

Ford Fiesta ST

Shown as a concept at last year’s Frankfurt show, the 178bhp 1.6-litre Ecoboost-powered Ford Fiesta ST will take on the Renault Clio 200 with very similar performance: 0-62mph in less than 7.0sec and 141mph. Styling inspiration is taken from the World Rally Championship car. It’s due in June.

Ford Focus ST

The old Focus ST was one of our favourite hot hatchbacks, blending scorching pace and driver involvement with everyday usability, so we have high hopes for the new one.

A new 247bhp 2.0-litre, four-cylinder Ecoboost engine claims to be 20 per cent more efficient than the distinctly inefficient five-cylinder motor in the previous ST. That sounds promising but, regardless of power, the real question is whether the Focus ST can deliver the level of driver reward that will be expected of it.

A new global platform has dulled the chassis sparkle of the standard Focus range, but Ford has created extraordinary things out of much more ordinary cars in its time. It could be the most relevant driver’s car of 2012. It is due to go on sale in July, priced from £24,000.

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Hyundai Veloster

The coupé-with-an-extra-door Hyundai Veloster (on sale next month) works as a well built, practical and economical value-for-money hatch. But it isn’t as enjoyable to drive or as exciting to look at as rival coupés and hot hatches. A 138bhp 1.6 petrol engine is the sole engine at launch, but a 201bhp version could arrive later in the year. Prices start from £18k.

Mini Roadster

The two-seat Mini Roadster will be positioned against the Mazda MX-5, the world’s biggest-selling sports car. Based on the Mini Convertible, the Roadster is 25mm lower and features a sportier-looking fabric roof. Like the Mini Coupé, the Roadster dispenses with rear seats, employing the space to boost boot space. Engines are 1.6 petrols and diesels, plus a new 141bhp 2.0-litre ‘performance’ diesel capable of 0-62mph in 8.1sec and 131mph. Expect it to land in April.

Peugeot 208 GTi

Peugeot will reverse years of ignoring its hot hatch heritage with a GTI version of the new Peugeot 208, due in October. Powered by a 154bhp 1.6-litre turbo, it will cover the 0-60mph dash in under 7.0sec and exceed 140mph. A more powerful 204bhp version, the GTI Racing, arrives later in the year. Prices are from £18k, with the Racing being £23k.

Peugeot RCZ cabrio

It’s still a ‘maybe’, but an open-roofed Peugeot RCZ could appear as a concept at the Paris show ahead of a 2013 launch. Also rumoured is a 240bhp RCZ ‘Evo’, the most powerful version yet, for late in the year.

Subaru BRZ

The rear-wheel-drive, 2+2 Subaru BRZ coupé finally arrives in the UK in the summer after what seems like the longest automotive gestation ever. Said to weigh about 1220kg — roughly 150kg lighter than the current Porsche Cayman — it has a 197bhp 2.0-litre flat four mounted in the engine bay to give a 53 per cent front/47 per cent rear weight distribution. The development budget is said to have been biased towards the highest-quality dampers, springs and suspension components — parts not normally fitted to cars in the £25k to £28k price range that has been suggested for the BRZ.

Toyota GT 86

Toyota may well sneak its long-awaited rear-drive coupé to market in June, a month ahead of its Subaru BRZ twin. The concept is for a lightweight and pure driver’s car and the underskin technology is predominantly Subaru’s, which means a 197bhp, 151lb ft 2.0-litre boxer drives the rear wheels through a six-speed manual gearbox or conventional automatic. Toyota’s main engineering input is said to have been the direct injection system. There are mild cosmetic differences, and the £25k to £28k price range being suggested is identical to Subaru’s.

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Vauxhall Astra convertible

We’ll see the new Vauxhall Astra convertible at the Paris motor show come September, although sales on UK shores won’t kick off until early the following year. A move to a fabric roof in place of a folding metal design is mooted.

Vauxhall Astra VXR

A much beefier 277bhp 2.0-litre turbo engine and a mechanical limited-slip diff promise to make the Vauxhall Astra VXR a keen new driver’s car. The front end is equipped with the HiPer strut suspension that cuts torque steer and the dampers are FlexRide adjustable units. The most powerful Astra yet will start at £28k and is expected in June.

Volkswagen Beetle

The order books opened last October and the new Volkswagen Beetle will reach customers this year. Three trim levels and two engines will make up the range initially. Three more engines, including a 197bhp 2.0-litre turbo model mated to a more sophisticated multi-link rear axle, will join the line-up later in the year. A cabriolet could also arrive late in 2012.

Volkswagen Polo R

VW has promised a hardcore Volkswagen Polo R to tie in with its entry in the World Rally Championship next year, although the car still awaits the green light for production. The engine and running gear are unclear but there must be a chance that it will share with the new Audi A1 quattro, suggesting 250bhp plus and four-wheel drive, which would tie in with the WRC car. A Paris show debut is possible.


Executive cars

Alpina D5

A super-fast 3.0-litre, twin-turbodiesel 5-series is on its way from BMW’s official tuner in the shape of the Alpina D5. Power is bumped up to 345bhp, which results in a top speed of 168mph and 0-62mph in 5.2sec. Fuel economy is, amazingly, 45mpg. Saloon prices start from £56k and the Touring from £59k. The order book is open now, with first deliveries in March.

Audi A4

Mildly tweaked styling and revised engines borrowed from the new A6 will help the compact executive Audi A4 saloon/estate to fend off the onslaught from BMW’s new 3-series. A new 200bhp 3.0 TDI V6 will replace the previous 2.7 unit. Here in March.

BMW ActiveHybrid 5

Based on the 535i saloon — there’s no Touring version — this new BMW ActiveHybrid 5 will cost £46,860 and goes on sale next month. The Active Hybrid 5 is rated at 44mpg and 149g/km, with 0-62mph in 5.9sec and a 155mph top speed.

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BMW 3-series

We haven’t even driven the new BMW 3-series in the UK yet, but already we feel utterly confident in declaring it the new class leader. It’s good at the obvious stuff: high levels of economy and power, a sweetly designed interior, that sort of thing.

But we didn’t expect its chassis to put serious clear air between it and its next-best rival, Merc’s C-class. This 3-series steers more crisply, corners with more intent and rides with better suppleness.

Is there a secret to it? Maybe: Wales. BMW has realised that Welsh roads offer “unique” undulations and have started chassis work there in earnest. A car that drives well in Wales drives well everywhere. BMW seems to think so, too, and we’ll find out for good next month.

BMW 3-series Touring

The second variant of the 3-series is the second best-seller: the five-door Touring that’ll reach us in September. Expect a roomier estate courtesy of the donor car’s bigger dimensions. Sources suggest a luggage volume of about 480 litres with the rear seats upright; that’s 30 more than the outgoing Touring and more competitive with its Audi and Mercedes rivals.

Cadillac ATS

The American luxury brand will take a more serious crack at Europe’s premium market with a rear-wheel-drive 3-series rival that’s coming at the end of December. Based on a shortened CTS, the Cadillac ATS is rumoured to feature a four-cylinder diesel powertrain.

Chrysler 300C

Beefier-looking styling adds presence to the new Chrysler 300C, which follows its predecessor by boasting a blend of space and value for money. Power comes from a 236bhp V6 diesel mated to a five-speed ZF automatic gearbox. An eight-speeder comes later. Prices will start at £39k and it’s here in July.

Jaguar XF Sportbrake

Set for a debut at the Geneva show in March, prior to going on sale in June, the Jaguar XF Sportbrake will be Jag’s first estate since the X-type wagon. The sporty styling means that the XF estate will be closer to the 5-series and A6 wagons for load capacity than the capacious Merc E-class. It will also feature all-wheel drive and the full-range of XF engines apart from the supercharged 5.0 V8.

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Lexus GS

Lexus is changing tack with the new GS, delivering greater agility, body control and comfort. The lead engine is a 338bhp 3.5 V6 hybrid with 47mpg and 137g/km, and the car is available in serious-looking F-Sport trim. An entry-level GS250 is also in the range. Look out for it in June.

Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake

Sumptuously appointed, grand estate cars have long had that comfortable, country house kind of feel, and adding a dynamism to the mix makes it more tempting still. That’s the confection Mercedes should be serving us in less than a year with its Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake — a name about as country house as they come. An athletic chassis should make it as effective on back roads as it will be at crushing the gravel of country pile driveways.

Airmatic suspension should prevent rear-end sag, and any of the CLS’s five engines should be capable of hauling the ’Brake with conviction, most of them quite economically. The exception will be the AMG, even as a (slightly) more fuel-sparing twin-turbo. But what a sensational wagon it should be.

Peugeot 508 RXH

The Peugeot 508 RXH Hybrid4 estate, due in April, will attempt to give Peugeot a foothold in a sector of the market where it once sold the 605 and 607. The stats are impressive — 67mpg and 107g/km — and the estate-on-stilts styling is attractive. Prices are from £29k.

Seat Exeo Facelift

The mildly tweaked Seat Exeo Facelift was revealed at the Frankfurt show in 2011 and will hit UK dealers early this month. An Ecomotive version, with CO2 around the 120g/km mark, will arrive in May.

Tesla Model S

European pricing of the four-door Tesla Model S EV will be confirmed in a few months, but right-hand-drive models won’t be delivered until 2013. Thanks to the packaging advantages of the lithium ion battery pack, the Model S has a 5+2 seating arrangement. It also has a potential 300-mile range.

Volkswagen CC

VW is dropping the ‘Passat’ moniker from its four-door Volkswagen CC coupé in an attempt to position it as a more credible BMW/Mercedes rival. The styling has been tweaked and the range-topping 3.6-litre V6 model has been dropped. The CC will be here in March.

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Volkswagen Passat Alltrack

The rugged-looking Volkswagen Passat Alltrack estate – here in April – will take a leaf out of Audi’s and Volvo’s books. All-wheel drive is standard on all UK models, mated to either a 138bhp or 168bhp 2.0 TDI engine. The Alltrack is said to have genuine off-road ability, helped by 165mm of ground clearance, which is 30mm more than in a standard Passat.

Next: new cars for 2012, part four – performance cars and supercars


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Dark Isle 6 January 2012

Re: Star cars 2012, part three

The Mercedes-Benz CLS Shooting Brake and Jaguar XF Sportbrake are models I'm most looking forward to.