When it debuts this spring, the all-new Civic will feature a lot of variants, from a natural-gas model for all 50 states to a hybrid, and both sedan and coupe bodies. While Honda isn't yet talking displacement or horsepower, the company is promising that base models with gas motors will reach 40 mpg on the highway and that there will be hotter, Si versions in both the coupe and sedan body styles. Also nice: While the Civic has grown larger in recent years, Honda trimmed some fat out of this redesign, so it may be a little tighter handling, and a little more in keeping with Hondas of yore—cars that were always both frugal and entertaining. Present Civic pricing is between $15,000 and $25,000, and we expect Honda to maintain that cost range.
When it goes on sale later this spring, the Ford Mustang BOSS 302 will help complete Ford's range of Mustangs, slotting nicely beneath the Shelby GT500 and above the GT. It uses the GT's 5.0-liter V8, but with a revised intake and other mods, it will produce 444 hp versus the GT's 412 hp. There will be a bevy of suspension modifications as well, including a unique strut tower brace, firmer springs and bushings, larger antiroll bars and manually adjustable shocks and struts. Ford is also promising stronger Brembo brakes and a short-throw, six-speed gearbox. Expect pricing just below $40,000, although a track-only Laguna Seca model (with racing slicks and a non-street-legal front air diffuser) will likely push pricing to $45,000.
The mini (though not as tiny as a Smart ForTwo) iQ debuts in the U.S. this summer. It's a tweaked version of the Toyota iQ sold globally, with what Scion calls a 3+1 seating configuration. That is, the passenger-side front and rear seats accommodate adult-size humans, as does the driver's seat. But the seat behind the driver is designated for kids or a child seat only. The Scion iQ's exterior looks a little meaner than the Toyota global version, with a revamped grille featuring aero effects and bolder, multispoke rims. The 1.3-liter four-cylinder engine puts out 90 hp and is mated to a CVT. Expect great fuel economy (perhaps up to 50 mpg on the highway) and park-it-anywhere urban utility, as this car is about 6-1/2 feet long—the tiny Toyota Yaris is 5 feet longer! Pricing should be in the $16,000 range. ALSO: The iQ reportedly will be used by Toyota as a platform for a global plug-in electric model coming in 2012. But what piqued our interest most was the hotted-up (with supercharger and roll cage) GRMN iQ Racing Concept, shown at this past year's Tokyo Motor Show.
The Fiat 500 clothtop is likely to steal the hearts of California dreamers in need of a grocery-getter and a refreshed tan. Like the 500 launching right now, the open-top model (the lid is more like a giant fabric sunroof that exposes all passengers to the sky) will get Fiat's 1.4-liter, 101-hp MultiAir four-cylinder and a five-speed manual gearbox or six-speed automatic. You'll have to wait for the hotter Abarth version of the 500 if you demand more urgency, and there's no word whether there might one day be a souped-up convertible version of the 500. Pricing is still TBD, but with the base 500 going for $15,500, it's possible the Convertible will sell for $19,000 or less.
While we've heard reports that the SRT (or SRT8, depending on whom you trust) will get as much as 500 hp from its new 6.4-liter Hemi V8, we're at least certain that the SRT is actually coming, and likely to arrive late this summer. If it's anything like the already deeply impressive Grand, the SRT8 is going to be both refined and scary fast, with a predicted eight-speed transmission and at a price (roughly $45,000) that deeply undercuts the likes of the Porsche Cayenne Turbo and other performance crossovers.
ALSO: In 2012 we'll see a Maserati 4x4 based on this Jeep's platform, with a Ferrari-designed V8 under the hood. How come? Because Fiat owns both Chrysler (Jeep's parent) and Maserati/Ferrari. If you have a deeper philosophical question, like, "Does the world need a Jeeperati?," we'll advise that you sit back and let the market decide.
Hyundai is pulling a very neat trick with its Veloster. It's a slightly larger car inside than the Scion tC (and Mini Clubman or Honda CR-Z hybrid). Yet thanks to a very low 2,600-pound curb weight—400 pounds less than the tC— it's said to get up to 40 mpg from its directly injected, 1.6-liter four-cylinder engine. That would best Honda's CR-Z numbers without necessity of hybrid technology, and with the benefit of a bigger cabin. One oddity: Access to the interior is a bit quirky, with one door on the driver's side, but both front and rear doors on the passenger side. Remember that weight? Fewer doors allow a carmaker to reduce structural reinforcements, and that keeps down bulk. And a low weight allows an increase in fun factor—indeed, Hyundai is promising greater sportiness than its rivals. Can the Veloster "out-fun" a Mini? Hmm, we're not sure, but Hyundai is promising a tighter turning circle than even a base Mini Cooper and a sophisticated, buttoned-down-sounding suspension. Transmissions include Hyundai's first dual-clutch six speed (hopefully with paddles) or a six-speed manual. Pricing should be in the $20,000 range.
The joint-project sports car from Toyota and Subaru is now getting far enough along to report at least the following, even though we're certain much will change. The car is said to be very light, and to use at least two versions of Subaru's flat, 2.0-liter four, with output purported to be around 200 hp in the RWD Toyota model and 250 hp in the Subaru version. Toyota's edition bows first, reportedly late this year, and not as a Toyota, but as a Scion, with the name FR-S. The Subie, if it comes to these shores, won't arrive until mid-2012 at the soonest. Pricing for the SubaScion is expected to be in the mid-$20K range.
A hot Camaro is coming and will be powered by the Cadillac CTS-V's 6.2-liter V8 with roughly 550 hp. Given how the Camaro SS with a 6.2-liter V8 that puts out a mere 426 hp can already clock a 0-to-60-mph sprint in less than 5 seconds, the ZL1 is going to be scary fast. This Camaro will go toe-to-toe with Ford's Shelby GT500—and BMW M3 and Porsche 911 owners should watch their rearviews too. Price? We'd guess between $42,000 and $48,000.
The new Focus is at last debuting in the U.S., with a 2.0-liter, direct-injected, 160-hp motor and variable valve timing, as well as a five-speed manual. But, the car to wait for is the 2013 Focus ST, which debuts in early 2012. It gets a six-speed manual with the same EcoBoost (turbocharged) 2.0-liter as the much larger Edge and Explorer and will be good for somewhere in the neighborhood of 250 hp, which puts it in league with hot hatches like the MazdaSpeed3 and beyond the output of the VW GTI. Ford is also promising a tauter suspension and meatier tires as well as bigger brakes to go with all that horsepower. Expect to pay at least $25,000.
With Mitsubishi scrapping its gas guzzlers and launching brand-new electric and gas-electric hybrids, all aimed at meeting ever-tighter global emissions standards, the rumor mill is suggesting that even the Lancer Evolution is going to go green. Or green-ish. The idea is to keep it high-performance and AWD, but also use some of the technology already behind the forthcoming i-MiEV electric city car and wed it to either a turbodiesel or a gas motor. The potential would still be there for exceptional output when both gas/electric power plants combine, but it's possible Mitsubishi may allow the driver to roll up to highway speeds on battery juice alone, vastly improving fuel economy. Evo XI may become both larger and more refined too, positioning it more naturally against rivals like Audi.
At this year's North American International Auto Show in Detroit, Toyota debuted an entire line of Prius models, including the intriguing Prius C Concept. They still stress that this is a concept, but a small, sporty hybrid hatchback is surely on its way. We can merely hope Toyota is smart enough to retain these design cues, especially as this is meant to be a "fun to drive" hybrid with taut handling and a sub-$20K price. Toyota is promising the highest mileage of any hybrid on the road that isn't a plug-in.
The Paceman is a two-door concept coupe that debuted last year, and our sources say it's a lock for production. Mini will have to work hard with this model, though, which is essentially the forthcoming Countryman minus two doors. The Paceman should either get real horsepower and ride considerably lower than the Countryman (think: a big version of the Mini Cooper S, but with all-wheel drive), or be made even more all-road capable than the Countryman, as a rival to the likes of the Subaru WRX—of course in full rally-car livery. The latter may actually be more likely, as Mini is racing a 2011 Countryman in the World Rally Championships. That car? It gets 300 hp!