New Cars [Page 1 of 199]
Skoda Fabia

Skoda gave us its first indication of the new Fabia's design direction at the Geneva show earlier this year. There, its new city car's lines were upscaled to fit the VisionC coupé concept, memorable as much for its nuclear green paint job as its sharpened surfaces.

As a result, the third-generation Fabia's design springs few surprises. It shares a similar DRG to the larger Rapid and Octavia models, including the chrome-edged grille and more technical, sharper-edged headlights. The hood has gained more prominent creases at its edges to emphasize the fact that this new model is a useful 90mm wider than before.

Given the wider VW Group's preoccupation with 'emotional' and 'sporty' designs, it's no surprise to see the Fabia steered in this direction. This seems particularly evident with the tornado line's section that deepens as it runs between the fenders, giving a muscular shoulder, and the sharp upkick at the base of the C-pillar that tightens up the old car's hockey-stick-shaped curve.

Horizontal lines dominate at the rear and are closely integrated with the design of the tail-lamps, bolstering the perception of precision and solidity that you'd expect from the VW Group's value-focused brand.

However, to ensure it keeps that value tag, the Fabia uses an upgraded version of the outgoing model's platform. For that reason, despite the increase in width and a 30mm-drop in overall height, the Fabia doesn't entirely appear to have shaken off the top-heavy look of its predecessor, although we'll be able to judge that – and the car's as-yet unrevealed interior – for ourselves at the Paris motor show this October.

Skoda Fabia gallery >

Kia Sorento

Kia has released pictures of the exterior of its new Sorento, ahead of the car's debut at the Paris Motor Show in October. It's the third generation of the Korean firm's mid-size SUV, and first impressions are that it conforms to the inexorable trend towards crossover aesthetics shown by both the Sorento itself - which has transitioned from utility-focused body-on-frame SUV to its latest car-like form - and its rivals.

The Sorento gains 95mm in length, taking it to 4,780mm, with 80mm of that increase being the wheelbase, which now measures 2,780mm. The car is also slightly lower and wider than before.

Viewed in profile, the new car appears closer in proportions to its sister model, the Hyundai Santa Fe, although the Kia's beltline is higher and its D-pillar treatment is the inverse of the Hyundai's.

Kia's communications about the car concern 'premium look and feel.' In terms of design, that appears to extend to a larger, more upright grille, reminiscent of BMW's latest X5, which connects with lamps that would look at home on the nose of a Volvo SUV.

The design increases the distance between the Sorento and Kia's smaller crossover, the Sportage, and appears to set a subtler tone for the look of the firm's future crossover lineup.

 

Hyundai i20

Hyundai's second-generation i20, designed at Hyundai Motor's Design Center Europe in Rüsselsheim, Germany, is the first to feature the firm's new small-car platform. Hyundai claims this allows sufficient flexibility to make the (as-yet unrevealed) interior the most spacious in its class.

As for the exterior, the distinction between what is a Kia and what's a Hyundai becomes ever-more blurred. The geometric headlamps, slender grille and lower trapezoidal intake are found in similar form on Kia's i20 equivalent, the Rio, although the intake's pout is perhaps closer to a Peugeot 208.

In profile, the surfaces are relatively simple, with a single character line running to the tail-lamps. Unlike its predecessor, this no-longer curves down abruptly at the car's rear. The old car's vertical tail-lamps are replaced by horizontal LED units similar to those on Kia's larger Cee'd, while the feature line running down from the lamps and across the bumper is straight from the smaller Kia Venga.

The blacked-out C-pillar also stands out, as it isn't quite as successfully resolved as it is on a Citroen DS3. We'll have to reserve full judgement until we see the car on the show stand at the Paris Motor Show, although that seems the perfect location for its debut, given its Franco-Korean aesthetic.

 

Mazda2

The Mazda2 city car is the fourth production car to be designed using the firm's Kodo form language. As with the CX-5, Mazda3 and Mazda6, it also gets the full set of Skyactiv chassis, engine and transmission technologies that are designed to help distinguish Mazda's products in the crowded mainstream segments in which it competes.

There's strong continuity between models - the new 2 features the now-familiar long hood, overhanging nose, bulging front fenders and upkicked beltline used on the larger cars.

To suit this latest, smaller application of the form language, there's now a body-colored strip in the grille. Although downsized, the grille now has seven sides rather than five, while the chrome trim that runs beneath it is more substantial than on the larger 3.

This still runs into the lamps, as per the larger Mazdas, but these are now a little larger, with softer edges. Combined with the fog lamps that are smaller and have moved in-board, and the 2's face appears less overtly aggressive than the 3, although a little more focussed than the big grin of the outgoing model.

The new model is similar in profile to its predecessor, although the tail is faster. At the rear, the 2 shows influence from Alfa Romeo's MiTo, particularly with the shape of the rear screen, and the license-plate holder.

Inside, the Mazda looks to Audi's A1 and A3 for inspiration, with a clean IP broken up by large, circular air vents, and a trio of HVAC controls in the center stack. The center screen, head-up display and gauge pack are descended from the Mazda3.

We'll get our first chance to see the Mazda2 at the Paris motor show in October. The car goes on sale in Japan as the Demio in the fall, and in Europe in late 2014.

Mazda2 gallery >

Opel/Vauxhall Corsa E

If this fifth-generation Opel Corsa looks familiar, that's because this is more a heavy facelift than an all-new car.

Opel has concentrated efforts on the eight-year old Corsa's mechanicals rather than an all-new bodyshell. Instead every exterior panel has been redesigned, alongside the entire interior.

This is the first Corsa developed under GM Europe's VP of design, Mark Adams and his influence is clear to see, with the incorporation of the lower bodyside 'blade' surface and the pouting mouth of the Adam.

While its proportions and upper body are clearly carried over, the new nose treatment in particular disguises the car's high scuttle thanks to the lower grille, lamps and diving shoulderline. The hood also gains a deeply recessed center surface that visually cheats down its height.

In order to disguise the carryover glass, the rear of the five-door version's DLO now kicks up at the base of the C-pillar rather than running through into the rear, giving a stronger aesthetic. Meanwhile the three-door has sprouted a Peugeot 208-esque extension to its window surround, intended to stretch out its window graphic.

The rear of both versions feature two-part lamps that spill over onto the tailgate, visually widening the car alongside the more horizontal emphasis of the feature lines.

It's difficult to assess from photographs how these changes will alter the character of the car, so we will reserve judgement until it makes its official debut at the Paris motor show in October.

Inside, the new IP also places emphasis on horizontal lines to create a greater feeling of space despite the unchanged dimensions, while the Adam donates much of its switchgear and the 'IntelliLink' 7-inch screen that sits in the center stack. This features the latest connectivity and infotainment software including Apple's Siri Eyes Free, while the car also features advanced safety features such as road sign recognition, blind spot alert and a collision warning system that uses a heads-up projection onto the windscreen.

The strategy of updating, rather than completely renewing, a model in this highly competitive European segment is certainly a risk although undoubtedly one that will be lucrative if it pays off.

Full Opel Corsa E gallery>

Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan

The exterior design of the Toyota Fuel Cell Sedan has been unveiled and, much to our disappointment, it appears to be a productionized version of last year's FCV concept, a car we felt one of the least impressive of 2013 in terms of design resolution.

The Fuel Cell Sedan retains the FCV's gaping lower mask gills that appear to be blanked-off in this instance. They lend the car a very aggressive, hungry face – surely a negative message for a car that majors on a technology that promises to be incredibly efficient and environmentally-friendly. These triangular 'intakes' form the leading edge of the front fender surfaces that set up a bow-wave surfacing treatment intended to represent the water the fuel cell emits.

As a theme this is compelling. However, the static stance of the car – with very long, equal-length front and rear overhangs – combined with the lower body's visual weight, gives the appearance of heaviness and lethargy. Again, the wrong message for a revolutionary propulsion system.

Other elements such as the floating hood surface and cant rails, as well as the stratified rear lamp graphics add to the car's character and distinctiveness, and Toyota should be applauded for doing so after a lifetime of criticizm of its designs' blandness.

And of course Toyota will argue that people will be compelled to buy (or perhaps lease, rent etc.) the Fuel Cell Sedan on the merit of its undoubtedly brilliant technology alone. However the frustration is that this poor level of design communication may well prove a repellant for many when there was a clear opportunity to compel when the car goes on sale next year.

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