2009 Los Angeles Auto ShowPosted on December 4th, 2009
Eco-friendly cars pave the way to economic recovery
By Nina Russin
Los Angeles has become known as the green auto show: a hot bed for sustainable technology. Since LA is the first major North American auto show of the season, it also sets the tenor for those that follow. While the 2009 show lacked some of the bells and whistles of more prosperous times, automakers had a more optimistic outlook than they did the year before.
Chevrolet kicked off the media preview with the North American debut of the Cruze: a compact sedan that replaces the Cobalt. The Cruze is already on sale in Europe; it rolls into North American dealerships for the 2011 model year. A 1.4-liter turbo-diesel engine and six-speed automatic transmission give the Cruze superior fuel economy: up to 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway. All grades come with antilock brakes, electronic stability and traction control, ten standard airbags and GM’s Onstar telematics system.
The 2011 Mazda2 is a five-door hatchback targeted towards active lifestyles. Mazda introduced its B-car in Japan, Europe and Australia for the 2007 model year: it enters US dealerships next summer. Power comes from a 1.5-liter engine with a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. Mazda hopes that the new subcompact will resonate with urbanites who want a fun-to-drive car with interior versatility.
This year, Ford brings back the Fiesta moniker as a youth-oriented subcompact car. The new Fiesta is available in four or five-door body styles. It competes against the Honda Fit, Nissan Versa, Toyota Yaris and Corolla.
Power for the Fiesta comes from a 119-horsepower four-cylinder engine and five-speed manual or six-speed automatic transmission. The PowerShift automatic transmission uses a dry clutch design to save weight over traditional automatic transmissions. An electric power steering pump saves additional space and weight under the hood, to enhance fuel economy. The Fiesta averages 40 miles-per-gallon on the highway.
North American spec models come with front bucket seats and a 60/40 split rear bench seat. Standard comfort and convenience features include automatic climate control, an auxiliary input, and Ford’s capless fuel filler system. Buyers can add push-button start, a tilt-and-telescoping steering wheel, and Ford Sync voice-activated controls with turn-by-turn navigation.
Honda and Volkswagen unveiled concept cars which combine small footprints with sustainable propulsion technology. The Honda P-BUT and Volkswagen Up! Lite are micro-cars that address the challenge of increasing traffic in urban areas.
The four-passenger Volkswagen Up! Lite weighs 1530 pounds, and averages up to 70 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Power comes from a 51-horsepower turbo-diesel four-cylinder engine and electric motor, mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission. The UpLight has a top speed of 100 miles-per-hour, and accelerates from zero-to-sixty in 12 seconds.
The aerodynamic exterior utilizes cameras in lieu of mirrors to minimize the car’s coefficient of drag. The driver uses a touchscreen and hand motion sensors to control climate, internet connectivity, multimedia and telephone. The back seat folds down to give the car additional cargo space.
Honda’s North American design studio developed the P-NUT as alternative to traditional micro-cars. The Honda Personal-Neo Urban Transport seats up to three. Large glass panels enhance visibility and make the interior seem more spacious.
The interior layout of a centrally-seated driver and two rear-seat passengers gives everyone the equivalent legroom of a mid-sized sedan. The rear seats fold out of the way to add cargo space.
The P-NUT’s rear engine bay can accommodate a variety of propulsion technologies, including a small traditional gas engine, gasoline-electric hybrid or pure electric powertrain.
Nissan’s La Jolla, California-based design team won the auto show’s 2009 design challenge with its V2G. Based on the theme, “Youthmobile 2030,” designers submitted their visions of what tech-savvy drivers of the future will be looking for. V2G stands for “Vehicle to Grid,” implying an interface with alternative propulsion systems.
“The scope of this year’s concepts… were very impressive,” said Chuck Pelly, director of Design Los Angeles and partner in The Design Academy Inc. “In the end, it came down to which team had the most inventive and solution-oriented design.”
2011 Hyundai Sonata
Hyundai unveiled the sixth-generation Sonata mid-sized sedan, powered by an all-new four-cylinder engine and proprietary six-speed automatic transmission. The new Sonata averages up to 35 miles-per-gallon on the highway. The sedan rolls into dealerships in January.
All models come with a four-wheel independent suspension. The sport-tuned suspension features larger stabilizer bars for better performance at speed. A quick-ratio steering system gives the Sonata a 35.8-foot turning radius. Buyers can choose between 16, 17 and 18-inch wheels.
Available comfort and convenience features include XM satellite radio with real-time traffic updates, Bluetooth interface, navigation and iPod connectivity. Hyundai is building the Sonata at its Alabama assembly plant.
The third-generation Toyota Sienna appeals to young families and empty nesters needing a spacious, flexible interior. The 2011 Sienna comes in five grades, with two available engines and a choice of front or all-wheel drive.
A 3.5-liter V-6 engine tows up to 3500 pounds, meeting our ALV minimum standard. Buyers can opt for a more fuel-efficient four-cylinder engine, which averages 26 miles-per-gallon on the highway. Toyota uses the same four-cylinder engine in the current Venza crossover vehicle.
Toyota is building the new Sienna at its manufacturing facility in Princeton, Indiana. The new minivan was designed and engineered exclusively in the United States.
Designers at Toyota’s Calty studio in Newport Beach, California based the Sienna on the F3R concept. The new Sienna’s angular exterior should appeal to crossover buyers, who consider traditional looking minivans too stodgy. A new sport model has a specially-tuned suspension, unique grille, and 19-inch wheels.
Inside, passengers enjoy a living room interior, including second-row lounge chairs with footrests.
The Los Angeles Auto Show is open to the public, and runs through December 13. Show location is the Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015. Show hours are weekdays, 11 am- 10 pm; Saturday 9 am- 10 pm, and Sunday 9 am- 8 pm. For more information, visit the show web site.
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