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The new Polo GTI in the starting blocks

Just in time for the traditional GTI weekend meet on Lake Wörthersee, which is again unable to take place due to COVID-19, Volkswagen is offering a first peek at the new Polo GTI. The compact sports car is based on the new Polo that was recently presented, and will become the premium version of the product line. This GTI model also represents pure dynamism and expressive design – the success factors of the GTI concept. The official world premiere of the new Polo GTI will take place at the end of June 2021.

“Once a GTI, always a GTI” – that’s how fans of the sporty Volkswagen models with the “magic three letters” continually express their loyalty. GTI – pure fascination and excitement. The success story continues, with the new Polo GTI in the starting blocks. Traditionally, it is the sportiest model in the Polo series. With its high-torque front-wheel drive, dynamically tuned sports chassis and expressive design, it really stands out from the crowd. Moreover, it fulfils the promise of exceptional driving dynamics in combination with exceptional everyday usability.

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Alfa Romeo wins four awards at the Motor Klassik Awards

Alfa Romeo wins four awards at once at the “Motor Klassik Awards 2021”. The readers of the well-known classic car magazine elected the Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint from the 1950s, the Alfa Romeo Spider, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT, and the Alfa Romeo Tonale as the winners in their respective categories. As in the competitions of previous years, the traditional Italian brand is once again right on top in the eyes of the readers of Motor Klassik.

In the category “Classic Coupés”, readers voted the Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint into first place with a share of 25.4 per cent of the vote. The two-door car is based on the shortened chassis of the Alfa Romeo 1900 sedan. A two-litre four-cylinder engine with a brand-typical double camshaft and 85kW (115hp) of power provides sporty performance that remains significant today. As was customary in the 1950s, the great Italian designers bought the mechanized chassis from Alfa Romeo and completed it with a body designed and manufactured in-house. The greatest success was achieved by the Milan-based Touring company, whose version of the Alfa Romeo 1900C Super Sprint is still considered one of the most balanced and sophisticated coupés ever constructed by the Biscione brand. Between 1954 and 1955, close to 300 units were built.

A similar masterpiece is the first-generation Alfa Romeo Spider, known today as the “round-tail Spider” or “Duetto”. The convertible was produced by the Pininfarina workshops based on the shortened chassis of the Alfa Romeo Giulia. The model was presented at the 1966 Geneva International Motor Show. The Alfa Romeo Spider became a cinema star through its role alongside Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft in the Hollywood blockbuster The Graduate (1967). Powered by a 1.6-litre engine (80kW/109hp) at the market launch, the car was later offered with a 1.3-litre power unit (65kW/88hp) and a four-cylinder with around 1,750 cubic centimetres of displacement (87kW/119hp). In the “Motor Klassik Awards 2021”, the Alfa Romeo Spider received more than one-third of the reader votes (exactly 35.3 per cent) in the “Classic Convertibles” category.

As last year, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT won the “People’s Sports Car” category, with an equally impressive 31.9 per cent of the reader votes. Classic car fans abroad know the racy coupé as “Bertone”, a tribute to the renowned Turin bodyshop responsible for the timeless look. Between 1963 and 1976, the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GT was sold around 225,000 times in total with engines between 1.3 and 2.0 litres of displacement (from 65kW/88hp to 96 kW/131 hp). Even today, the Giulia Sprint GT is one of the most numerous representatives of Italian classic cars in Germany. The most famous sports version was the Alfa Romeo Giulia Sprint GTA with aluminum bodywork and 1.6-litre engine with dual ignition. In various versions, the GTA won countless races and several European Touring Car Championship titles in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

The Alfa Romeo Tonale has not been launched yet. But the readers of “Motor Klassik” have already voted the compact SUV their personal favourite among the current SUVs and off-road vehicles (27 per cent share of the vote). The design award-winning Alfa Romeo Tonale, named after a pass in the Italian Alps, will also be available with hybrid drive.

Motor Klassik magazine has been published since 1984. 14,778 readers took part in the latest edition of the annual “Motor Klassik Awards” competition. Due to the pandemic, the award ceremony was held online.

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Back to backwards

The backwards-slanted rear screen was one of the weirdest design trends ever, says JULES CHRISTIAN.

When it comes to automotive design, it is a world of extremes, ranging from the exotic and the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini to the stately, such as Rolls Royce to the practical and affordable of the mass production companies.

As a general rule, the more dramatic the look, the more you pay, which today means that once a large manufacturer hits upon a successful shape the others play safe and follow the trend or revamp a classic in a modern way.

This was not always the case. In past years there have been some crazy trends. Just look at the wacky fashion for fins in the US in the 1950s, which actually crossed over to Europe in the shape of the Morris Oxford and Austin Cambridge, among others.

Ford Consul 315

But to me one of the weirdest ones was the backwards-slanted rear screen.

If you think someone needs to be blamed for this, it was Ford in the US with their 1957 Mercury Breezeway. “Breeze” gives you a clue as to the idea, as the backwards-slanting rear window actually had a wind-down electric centre section to air the vehicle’s interior in the years before air-conditioning was to become common in most American cars.

Worldwide, Ford thought they would try their weird window in the UK, and in 1959 introduced the Anglia 105E. The advertising claims of the day were that the backwards window gave the owner a rain- and snow-free rear view. Whether it was the unconventional styling or not, the Anglia took a long time to catch on with its best sales year not until 1967, when it was already being over shadowed by a new Cortina model.

Less well known was the Consul 315, targeted at a more upmarket buyer and featured the same rear window design, which was more easily accepted by the time it came out in 1961. The car was not a great success and was only in production for a couple of years, with buyers choosing the more luxurious versions of Ford’s Cortina, which was much the same size.

Lotus Europa Special

It was not just saloon cars that got the treatment. Lotus tried it – well sort of – in their 1970s Lotus Europa. It was a very small rear window, which being a mid-engined sports car, was actually half way up the car, but it definitely had a backwards slant.

In those days, if you wanted something different, there were always the French. Citroen, renowned for their innovation and eccentricity were not to be outdone. In 1961, they brought out the Citroen Ami 6, which was built along the same utilitarian principles of their hugely successful 2CV. Although harangued in the motoring press for its design, it did have many improvements on the 2CV, including the first oval-shaped headlamps which worldwide had always been round until then, and despite its unlikely appearance, it did survive in production in various forms for a further 8 years.

Unfortunately, in the beginning, it wasn’t just the rear window that went backwards. In its first year, so did sales, selling nearly 60,000 fewer units than the model it was planned to replace.

Mercury Monterey Breezeway

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The new Hyundai i20 is all grown up

While in the past, consumers would buy the Hyundai i20 primarily for its reliability and practicality, today one would seriously consider it also on an emotional level.

The new i20 looks gorgeous. It has received a major upgrade on the inside offering higher levels of connectivity, quality, safety and comfort than one would expect in this segment. Its mild hybrid system enhances its performance while enabling it to achieve impressive levels of efficiency.

Tonio Darmanin test-drives the new i20.

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An all-rounder

The Cupra Formentor heralds a situation where the electrified option offers a better deal than the traditional power trains, says TONIO DARMANIN.

Cupra is to Seat what Abarth is to Fiat. This is part of legacy left behind by Luca De Meo who was responsible for reviving both these high performance, motorsport subsidiary brands. Cupra was created in 2018 and took over the functions of Seat Special Vehicles Department responsible for numerous successes both in the World Rally Championship as well as the World Touring Car Championship.

In the product range we already have the Cupra Ateca and the Cupra Leon, but what I recently drove is the is the first car designed specifically for this brand.

The Cupra Formentor is a coupe SUV available as petrol, diesel and the PHEV version that I drove. There are also the even sportier variants, namely the Formentor VZ range (Veloz – Spanish word for fast), with a PHEV developing 245bhp, as well as a 310bhp (four-wheel drive) petrol option, but more about that later.

As is the tradition with this company, the name is tied to a locality – Formentor is a locality on the Spanish island of Majorca.

The dynamic proportions of the CUPRA Formentor are heightened by the visual emphasis placed towards the rear of the vehicle which accentuates the length of the bonnet. And the side profile of the high-performance crossover coupe alludes to the power found under the bonnet and the overall dynamism of the vehicle.

The body tone is reminiscent of a robust all-terrain vehicle, but the Formentor uses this design technique to lighten the vehicle, giving it a more svelte appearance, one that reflects the performance it delivers. This attribute is continued thanks to its compact and sporty aesthetics, closer to that of a hatchback, but in a coupe crossover, and its merging of all-terrain attributes expected from a traditional SUV.

“The elegant yet strong design continues at the rear”

The front of the Formentor is strong and determined, but elegant and refined with the large front grille home to the famous CUPRA copper badge and book marked by the full LED front headlights that use the signature design.

The elegant yet strong design continues at the rear with the integration of rear dynamic blinkers as well as a rear coast-to-coast light with a welcome ceremony that creates a visual width to the vehicle and gives not only a now signature look, but also helps the vehicle standout.

At 4450mm long and 1839mm wide and a height of 1,511mm it provides excellent headroom for all the passengers while the wheelbase of 2,680mm offers significant legroom for rear occupants and a boot capacity of up to 450 litres (420l for the 4Drive version and 345l for plug-in hybrid versions) it is also a practical option.

Inside, the cabin instantly communicates the character of the car, with a sophisticated, sporty design. The sports bucket seats are mounted low in the cabin to maximise space and are designed to allow for a more ergonomic seating position, giving a sense of the dynamic performance.

The digital cockpit was developed specifically for Cupra models, a sport view mode is also available, offering more focused display including RPM, torque, power, turbo pressure and G-acceleration .

In the interior, the leather dashboard with copper stitching appears to float, an impression created by the horizontal full-LED wraparound ambient lighting which runs the width of the dashboard and in both front doors. This light is not only an aesthetic feature, but also provides safety functions too linked to the onboard driver’s assistant systems; flashing orange when exit assist is activated or red when the door is open for instance.

The centrepiece of the interior is the 12-inch infotainment touchscreen which provides the functionality and connectivity to all occupants and reduces button count. The system combines the Wireless Full Link system making it compatible with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto. The simplicity and elegance of the interior is achieved in part thanks to the inclusion of the shift-by-wire DSG transmission technology, which helps declutter the interior, creating greater space.

When users are away from their vehicle, they can access vehicle information including driving data, parking information, vehicle status and set up speed alerts using the Cupra Connect app.

“The Formentor is loaded with the latest technology both in terms of comfort and connectivity as well as for safety”

For the plug-in hybrid versions, there are additional features too. Drivers can manage the charging process and control the Climatronic remotely as well as manage departure times, all from their fingertips.

Included in the lower power variants of the range, are the diesel Formentor 2.0 TDI 150PS (110kW), petrol Formentor 1.5 TSI 150PS (110kW) both available with either manual or DSG automatic transmissions, Formentor 2.0 TSI 190PS (140kW) DSG 4Drive and the plug-in hybrid CUPRA Formentor e-Hybrid 1.4 TSI 204PS (150kW), again with a DSG transmission.

With the step up in power, the VZ name finds its way onto the Formentor VZ 2.0 TSI 245PS (180kW) DSG front-wheel-drive first, and is joined by the plug-in hybrid Formentor VZ e-Hybrid 1.4 TSI 245PS (180kW) DSG front-wheel-drive and the Formentor VZ 2.0 TSI 310PS (228kW) DSG 4Drive finishing the line-up.

The car I drove is the Formentor e-Hybrid developing a combined 204hp and 350Nm of torque. Acceleration to 100km/h takes 7.9 seconds and the car reaches a maximum speed of 205km/hr. Emissions are calculated at just 33g/km of CO2, while economy of up to 188.3mpg is possible, as long as you plug it in regularly. The electric range is 59km on a single charge of the 12.8kWh (usable capacity) battery.

The Formentor is loaded with the latest technology both in terms of comfort and connectivity as well as for safety. The seating position is set middle way between an SUV and a normal saloon, making it easy to enter and exit and at the same time still enhances the car’s overall sporty attitude.

The DSG shifts smoothly, suspension on the 18inch alloys is comfortable in most circumstances and the steering is precise and gives adequate feedback. The car handles well, with massive grip and negligible bode roll.

As I anticipated when I tested the Seat Leon PHEV, this was the brand fastest approaching the situation where the electrified option will offer a better deal than the traditional power trains. Well here it is. The very well-equipped car I tested offering 204bhp and impressive economy costs €25,500 net of the Govt grant and scrappage or €26,500 if you do not have an older vehicle to scrap. The basic 1.5 TSI (150bhp) petrol version with a manual gearbox costs €32,500. Which one would you go for?

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Economical in everything but fun

The Sprite was small in size but big in fun, says JULES CHRISTIAN.

The late 1950s and 60s were the era of the real British sports car. The heavyweights of the day were the likes of the Jaguar XK150, Triumph TR4A, Sunbeam Tiger, Austin Healey 3ltr and the ‘new’ E-type. The mid-range selection including the MGB, Sunbeam Alpine, Lotus Elite, to name but a few. This left an untapped market for a small, inexpensive convertible that basically got your head out in the open air, was cheap to run, and was simply fun.

It was a time of change, and Austin Healey, which was the combination of the British Motor Company (BMC) and the John Healey Motor Company, decided to do just that, and designed the Sprite. The car was introduced to fill that gap in the lower end of the market and was revealed to the press in 1958 as a budget model that “a chap could keep in his bike shed”.

Frog-Eye Sprite Mk1 1960

At first look the Sprite seemed to be a bit of a ‘bitzer’, using parts and technology from an assortment of cars: the engine was basically the one used in the Morris 1000, as was the rack and pinion steering, whereas the rear suspension was derived from no less than the Jaguar D-type. The famous “frogeye” headlights were originally designed to be pop-up but, as the whole car was a cost cutting exercise, they were finally left sitting on top of the bonnet.

The original performance was not exactly riveting. The 948cc, four-cylinder engine, boosted from the original by twin SU carbs, produced 43bhp and gave the Sprite a 0-100km/h time of 20.5secs and a top speed of just 134kph. Remembering that it was an economy model, the fuel consumption was excellent in its day at 43mpg.

When I said economy, I was not joking. Cost-cutting involved no boot lid – you had to tilt the seats forward and access the boot area from inside the car. There were no exterior door handles – the doors only opened from the inside (this didn’t matter because you had no wind-up windows, they were just sliding plastic and detachable) and no bonnet, with the whole of the front of the front of the car just hinging back. This was like the E-type, but attached at the bulkhead not the front – for access it was a mechanic’s dream come true. Moreover, the soft top was positively primeval and did very little to stop you getting soaked when it rained.

Austin-Healey Sprite Mk IV 1969

Economised it may have been, but you did get carpets and snazzy body coloured piping on the seats and the strange thing is – it worked. In fact it worked very well indeed. Modified factory versions won major racing successes in their class and the low cost and practicality of the car meant that many privateers could afford to enter competitions. And, most importantly, the general public loved it.

The Mark II came out in 1961 with a big change in body style. The frogeye headlamps were moved to the side wings (not popular with the original enthusiasts), a rear bumper was added and there was now a boot lid. By 1962 an alternative version was available using the MG marque, badged as the MG Midget, which proved even more popular than the Sprite. The performance was enhanced with a larger 1098cc engine and, carrying on in true ‘bitzer’ tradition, even introduced Porsche synchromesh to the gearbox.

Competition from the, then new, Triumph Spitfire in 1964 brought about the next upgrades for the Sprite and Midget. The engine power was now up to a more respectable 59bhp and the rear suspension modified, the addition of a curved windscreen, quarter-lights, improved interior trim, external door handles, and wind-up windows further enhanced the Spriget. The performance was later increased again with a new 1275cc engine producing 65bhp, the brakes were improved, and alloy wheels would also become an option.

Frog-Eye Sprite

By far the biggest step forward, however, to many a damp owner, was the soft top finally being sorted out. Previously it had been a ramshackle affair that you took apart and then shoved the pieces in the boot, which like socks in a washing machine, one always went mysteriously missing, meaning it would never reassemble properly. The new one had a permanently fixed folding hood, which didn’t leak (well almost).

Although the Midget version would continue in production until 1980 under the ownership of British Leyland, the Sprite was discontinued in 1971. This was because BMC, by then British Leyland, were undertaking cost-cutting themselves and severed their link with originators of the car, the Donald Healey Motor Company, in order to avoid paying royalties.

My own fond memories were the absolute joy of my first ever trip in an open sports car, driven by my elder half-brother – a brand new, bright red, Austin Healey Frog Eye Sprite. Fun indeed.

The interior of the Frog-Eye Sprite

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The game changer

When this car was first launched five years ago, it was a game changer. Fast-forward to present times and it is still a stunning and exhilarating luxury saloon. Tonio Darmanin drives the Tesla Model S 100D.

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Back to the future

With its clean retro-futuristic styling and advanced technology, the Honda e demonstrates both the company’s capability to produce top products but also gives us a taste of things to come. With a credible 220km range and beautifully balanced RWD performance, it offers an awesome, unique experience. Tonio Darmanin drives the Honda e.

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A Ceed with roots

Now in its third generation, the new Kia Ceed – designed, developed, engineered and built in Europe – strengthens Kia’s presence in the European C-segment with a mature and athletic new design, innovative new technologies, and a more engaging drive. Here, Tonio Darmanin drives Kia’s bestseller.

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