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2011 Chevrolet Cruze (GM/General Motors)
2011 Chevrolet Cruze (GM/General Motors)

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Compacts cost less to run than hybrids, CAA reports Add to ...

The Canadian Automobile Association released its 2011 Driving Cost guide recently, which found that a typical compact car will cost less overall to use than the most fuel- efficient hybrid, even for urban drivers who drive as much as 32,000 kilometres a year.

Comparing overall ownership costs for a Chevrolet Cruze (with a 1.4-litre, high-mileage turbo engine), Dodge Grand Caravan (with the ancient 3.3-litre V6) and Toyota Prius as popular representative example of compact cars, minivans and hybrids, respectively, the guide found that the Cruze had a major edge over the Prius in overall cost at 18,000 km/year, and a very slight one at 32,000 km/year, which is well over the typical 17,000 to 25,000 that most people drive in a year.

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Using a standard of 18,000 km, a 2011 Cruze cost an average of $8,884 a year after factors such as insurance, depreciation, finance and operating costs (mostly fuel) were factored in, with the Prius coming in at $9,496. The thirstiest and quickest-depreciating Grand Caravan cost the most overall, at $11,965.

The Prius had the lowest operating costs, not surprising for the most fuel-efficient vehicle on the road, landing at 9.2 cents/km, compared to the Cruze’s 14.7 and the Grand Caravan’s 19.65. But it was higher in finance costs, depreciation and purchase price, giving it an overall cost/km rating – again, at 18,000 km – of 52.8 cents/km, versus the Cruze 1LT’s 49.4, and the Dodge’s 66.5 cents/km.

The full results are available at the CAA’s website at caa.ca, and contains a helpful sheet for those looking to calculate their overall automotive costs.

2012 Smart fortwo EV

New electric Smart to arrive late next year

A less-toy-like Smart fortwo EV will be unveiled at the Frankfurt motor show in September, and Mercedes-Benz Canada confirmed this week that Canadian buyers will be able to order the 2012 two-seat urban runabout in the second half of 2012.

The third-generation fortwo EV will be able to exceed 100 km/h, thanks to its more powerful 55 kW electric motor, now provided by Deutsche Accumotive instead of the 30 kW motor currently supplied by Tesla, the California company that is aligning itself closer and closer with Toyota.

Both Toyota and Benz/Smart parent company Daimler are Tesla investors, with Toyota Canada and Tesla announcing recently that the RAV4 EV – set to go on sale next year in the United States, starting with California – will be the first mainstream electric vehicle built in Canada, at Toyota’s Cambridge plant. Toyota Canada public relations manager Melanie Testani said again this week that the firm is studying whether to offer it in Canada or not, which is usually a code for “no” or “certainly not any time soon.”

About 17 Canadian buyers are driving second-generation Smart EVs now, in a special test program with Smart Canada and Toronto Hydro, paying about $545 a month for a special lease that includes all the electricity, maintenance and even winter tires for their Smart EV.

The 2012 Smart ForTwo will have a top speed of about 120 km/h, and it will be able to reach the 100 km/h mark from rest in less than 13 seconds, says Mercedes-Benz. Ironically, even with presumably environmentally-sensitive buyers, Mercedes says that an increased top speed and acceleration above 60 km/h were both priorities mentioned most by current Smart EV buyers, and not necessarily a range increase.

Still, range is also increased slightly to about 140 km a charge (up from 135 km), courtesy of its larger 17.6 kW battery.

Visually, the ’12 Smart EV doesn’t stray very far from the established fortwo “small is cute” formula – a larger grille and new LED headlights are the most notable differences. The plug-in Smart will be available in 30 countries, up from 18, and the production numbers will increase at least five-fold, all of which should make the price come down substantially as well.

Lotus unveils racy concept

Lotus unveiled its race-ready Evora GTE Road Car concept Aug. 17 amid festivities surrounding the Pebble Beach Concours D’ Elegance in and around Monterey, California, this week and through the weekend.

Though a concept car now, the Evora GTE is based on new global GTE racing standards for production-based vehicles, standards that will be in place for races such as the famed 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Evora GTE concept ditches the relatively tame 276-hp Toyota V-6 for a more serious 420-hp mill, mated to a sequential AMT racing gearbox and nearly slick Pirelli P-Zero Corsas with centre-locking hubs.

An end-of-the-line version of the Exige will also be shown at Pebble, dubbed the Matte Black Final Edition. Only 25 examples of this more powerful, 257-hp Exige will be built, and all for North America, before the Exige and its convertible Elise counterpart exit the new car scene by the end of this year.

Concept sketch of Jaguar C-X16 coupe to debut at Frankfurt motor show in September.

Jaguar to debut C-X16 concept

Jaguar is planning to debut a sporty Porsche-fighting coupe in Frankfurt, the firm confirmed this week, when it released the code-name and a sketch of the two-seat C-X16 sports car concept.

The sketch suggests the concept will be a two-door coupe with classic Jag long hood, short deck proportions, as well as sinuous feline curves with huge wheels.

Whispers of a Porsche-scrapping two-seat Jaguar have made the rounds on the Internet for a while, with spy shots of a Boxster-sized engineering mule that show a close but shrunken relationship to the curvy XK two-door.

Jaguar is withholding most details on the C-X16 until the concept’s debut in mid-September, but there should be some surprises with this car, given Jag’s intention to “set new class benchmarks in design, vehicle dynamics and technology.”

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