This week Autocar.co.uk 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 two, below, rounds up all the family cars and MPVs we’re looking forward to seeing in 2012. If you missed part one, which covered city cars and superminis, click here to read it.
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).
Family cars and MPVs
Expect evolution, not revolution, from the new Audi A3, which will be based on the Volkswagen Group’s flexible new MBQ architecture. Judging from the sketches and spy pictures of test mules and concepts that we’ve seen so far, the exterior will be slightly more angular than the current A3 and it will get a nip ’n’ tuck to bring it more into line with Audi’s current styling trends.
We can also expect a pared-back cabin in terms of design, but with more hi-tech features; the MMI control system and ultra-thin pop-up infotainment screen from more expensive Audi models are likely to be offered in the new A3.
There should be some head-turning additions to a broader model range. Not only are hybrid, plug-in, natural gas and full-electric versions possible, but a booted saloon is also planned in response to demand from the US and China. The basic three-door Audi A3 is expected to appear at the Geneva motor show in March, and it will be followed by the five-door, saloon and soft-top versions.
BMW 1-series 3dr
The new BMW 1-series loses a pair of doors this August to launch new, more affordable models with keen entry prices. Expect a £500 advantage over the equivalent five-door model.
Chevrolet Cruze estate
The load-carrying version of the Chevrolet Cruze is part of Chevy’s plan to expand its range to 15 models and double sales by 2015-2016. Here in September.
Chevy will wait for a diesel version of the Malibu to be available, which means launching it late in the year, probably December. The value-for-money Mondeo competitor is based on the Insignia platform and features a 169bhp 2.4-litre diesel. Read our first drive review of the Chevrolet Malibu Eco here.
The industry-leading Volt finally arrives in the UK in March, two years after it was launched in the US. Priced at £28,545 (after subsidy), the Volt promises a 50-mile EV-only range, but no range anxiety thanks to an on-board 1.4-litre petrol engine that keeps the battery charged on the move. The battery pack means it’s a four-seater only. Read our first drive review of the Chevrolet Volt here.
The third model in Citroën’s upmarket DS line-up is a swoopily styled, five-seat family hatch priced and aimed at buyers looking for an alterative to the obvious Mondeo/Passat genre. And despite its relatively compact 4.5m-long footprint, the DS5 is claimed to seat five people in comfort. The ace up its sleeve is a 2.0-litre diesel-electric Hybrid4 powertrain with 163bhp from the oil-burner and 37bhp from the electric motor. The headline figure is 99g/km of CO2. Prices will range from £23k to £33k when it goes on sale in March.
The Paris show in September will be the venue for the public debut of Ford’s fascinating Fiesta-based utility hatch, the Ford B-Max. It might just have hit on a clever solution to the problem of unhindered access to the interior of a small car by combining a pair of sliding rear doors with a pillarless design. About 110mm longer than a Fiesta, the B-Max will offer a more practical interior and be in competition with the Vauxhall Meriva. Engines will be drawn from the Fiesta and Focus ranges and include the new 123bhp, three-cylinder 1.0-litre Ecoboost.
The well received Ford Focus Zetec S, powered by a 180bhp 1.6-litre Ecoboost petrol engine, hits dealers next month, priced from about £20k. In May the Focus will receive the economy-minded 1.0-litre, three-cylinder Ecoboost engine. With 123bhp on tap — the output of a 2.0-litre engine a decade ago — the 1.0 Ecoboost also promises 56mpg and 114g/km.
While the influential ‘Mondeo Man’ in the 1990s would have found himself at the wheel of Ford’s staple four-door, in 2012 he’s more likely to be driving a BMW 3-series. That’s not to say the launch of any new Mondeo isn’t one to look forward to. Previous Mondeos have always been able to hold their own against or even outperform premium rivals perceived as being from the class above.
The new Mondeo’s styling has already been previewed by the sleek and technical-looking Evos concept and we’ll see the final product in just a few days’ time at the Detroit show. So we know what to expect from the styling. The big question is whether the new Mondeo can ride or handle like its impressive predecessor now that it has become part of the ‘One Ford’ global car programme.
Fears that Ford’s global cars will cater merely for the lowest common denominator dynamically have not materialised with the Fiesta or Focus, but whether the same rules will apply to the new Mondeo and its North American sister car, the Fusion, is something that we’ll be watching with interest.
Honda is launching its ninth-gen Civic next month, but the much-needed 1.6-litre diesel won’t arrive until November. As well as better dynamics and a bigger boot, the new Civic will feature a higher-quality interior and super-slippery aerodynamics that result in a 0.27 Cd. Engines will be improved and carry-over units include a 110g/km 2.2-litre diesel.
Honda Insight facelift
A minor model change to the Honda Insight in April will involve mainly cosmetic tweaks.
The new Focus fighter from Hyundai borrows its styling from the rakish i40. Roomier inside and featuring a larger boot than its predecessor, the Hyundai i30 comes with a full range of petrol and diesel engines from its February launch.
Hyundai i30 MPV
A seven-seat competitor for the Ford C-Max arrives next winter. Based on the new i30 platform, the Hyundai i30 MPV will also share its petrol and diesel engines with the hatchback. Expect conventional doors, which are cheaper to engineer, and easy access to the third row.
The four-door i40 saloon joins the range this month. Engines and trim follow the estate line-up. Prices start at £17,500. Read our full road test of the Hyundai i40 here.
A new Kia Cee'd is due to be revealed at the Geneva show as a five-door and featuring revised underpinnings and a sleek new body. The SW estate will follow in October and the three-door in 2013.
Based on the Hyundai i40, the Optima will compete in the heart of Mondeo/Passat country with a value-for-money offering. Just a single 1.7-litre diesel with manual or auto transmission will be offered from next month. Read our first drive review of the Kia Optima here.
Lexus CT200h F-Sport
Sports suspension — stiffer springs and higher-specification dampers — should raise the Lexus CT200 from the mundane to the interesting. Prices for the Lexus CT200h F-Sport start from a shade under £28,000 and it launches this month.
We’ll see the new Mazda 6 at the Paris show this autumn, but UK cars won’t arrive until early in 2013. Based closely on the coupé look of the Takeri concept, the new 6 will feature a complete suite of SkyActiv energy-saving technology, including lightweight steel body construction, a 170bhp 2.2 engine emitting 104g/km of CO2 and weight-saving transmissions.
The all-new Mercedes A-class, due in June, sits on a new modular front-drive platform and takes a major change in direction to become a more conventional premium hatchback rival to the Audi A3 and BMW 1-series. The seating position is as low as its competition, the styling is sharp and the petrol and diesel engines are either new or heavily revised.
An all-new B-class arrives in the spring. Lower, wider and roomier than the outgoing B-class, the new five-door hatch also has a higher-quality interior with cues from the range-topping SLS. The seating position is 86mm lower and more upright, and rear legroom is said to surpass that of the S-class limo. Boot capacity is also up, to a commodious 666 litres. The petrol engines are significantly upgraded ‘M270’ units of 1.6-litre capacity and 121bhp and 145bhp output. Diesels are 1.8-litre engines that make 107bhp and 134bhp. A seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox replaces the CVT. Read our first drive review of the Mercedes B-class here.
A Focus-sized hatchback version of the MG 6, the MG 5 is a variant of the China-only Roewe 550 and is due in 2013. Aspects of the styling and handling will be reworked for Europe. The suspension is struts and twist beam — less sophisticated than the multi-link axle of the 6. Engines are 1.3 and 1.8 petrols.
The family-friendly offering in Renault’s 2012 wave of EVs is the four-door notchback Fluence, on sale in May. It’s priced from £23k — £18k when a £5k government subsidy is factored in — and renting the batteries is a further £69 per month. Read our first drive review of the Renault Fluence here. Renault claims the car has a range of 115 miles.
The new Volkswagen Golf platform will spawn a fresh new Seat Leon, with styling based on the IBE concept car that was first shown at the Paris motor show in 2010. Expect a launch late in the year, with UK sales starting early in 2013.
Skoda’s version of the Golf will grow in size and move another notch upmarket, making way for the Lauretta supermini-sized saloon. The familiar high-quality, value-for money formula will be matched to sharper styling derived from the Skoda Vision D concept.
Subaru Impreza 5dr
Subaru’s five-door hatchback is the same car as the XV crossover, but with a lower ride height and no cladding. Let’s hope that the grippy but lumpy chassis tune better suits the Subaru Impreza hatchback than it does the XV.
Toyota Avensis facelift
The cosmetic changes may be minimal (even return buyers will struggle to see any styling changes unless you have the two cars sitting next to each other), but a revised 2.0-litre D-4D diesel with 124g/km of CO2 — a 20g/km reduction — is a worthwhile improvement nonetheless. Due in June. Read our first drive review of the Toyota Avensis here.
Toyota Prius Plug-In
The uprated lithium ion battery pack in the Toyota Prius Plug-In promises a 14-mile EV range, 49g/km and 134mpg for much-reduced company car tax and running costs. Priced from £31k, it will qualify for the government’s £5k subsidy.
The eagerly anticipated range-extender Vauxhall Ampera will shake up the establishment with its promise of 100mpg-plus real-world economy when it appears in May. It will be priced at £28,995 (with a £5k government subsidy included). Read our first drive review of the Vauxhall Ampera here.
This year marks the debut of the seventh-generation Volkswagen Golf. It is based on a new platform that will underpin a whole family of VW Group models. Volkswagen’s version will feature sportier styling, with a more raked-back windscreen, lower roofline and wider footprint than today’s model. The three-door will get its own, sportier sheetmetal. Expect an extensive range of direct-injection petrol and diesel engines and even an electric version eventually. The five-door will be available first, in early 2013, possibly after a Paris show debut in September. The three-door model will follow later in 2013.
Volvo will launch a Golf-rivalling five-door hatchback at the Geneva show in March — the firm’s first such car since the 440 in the 1990s. It’s set to replace both the S40 and V50, although the future of the three-door C30 is less clear. Expect downsized four-cylinder engines and a premium cabin to compete with VW’s big seller.