Car makers plan smaller, leaner sports cars

Car makers plan smaller, leaner sports carsFrankfurt -Big, high-powered sports cars have an image problem as the debate on climate change heats up and the global recession bites fiercely. So now, car makers plan to launch a number of smaller, compact sports cars in the coming months. And with a little goodwill, these vehicles could pass as a family saloon and still keep up with a Porsche in terms of performance.

"These small power packages come just at the right time," says car analyst Christoph Stuermer of the Frankfurt-based IHS Global Insight.

The latest on the tarmac is the new Golf GTI with an output of 155 kW/210 hp. It accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in six seconds and has a top speed of 240 km/h. Volkswagen lists consumption at 7.3 litres with a carbon dioxide emission figure of 170 grammes per kilometre.

Since its launch in 1976, the GTI has sold around 1.7 million units. Performance has doubled and fuel economy improved significantly over the original with a power unit of 81 kW/110 hp. The 1976 model sold in Germany at the time for 13,850 marks (9,247 dollars). The latest model is listed at 26,650 euros or 35,579 dollars.

The GTI will not be alone in its class as Renault plans to follow with a similar two-litre, turbocharged Megane RS. The engine has an output of 184 kW/250 hp - 10 per cent more than the latest Sport-Megane and 29 kW/40 hp more than the Golf GTI. Fuel consumption figures and price are not yet available.

Mazda is planning a revival of the Mazda 3 MPS fitted with a 2.3-litre direct fuel injection unit for mid 2009. The wide, cooler grille and the pronounced hood emphasize the sporty character.

A turbo loader boosts performance of the four-cylinder to 191 kW/260 hp. The zero to 100 km/h sprint is at 6.1 seconds and the top speed 250 km/h. Its consumption of 9.2 litres is pretty steep, but is half a litre less than the predecessor model.

The undisputed king of the compact class, however, is the new Ford Focus RS which hits European salesrooms in mid 2009 for a price tag of 33,900 euros (45,257 dollars). According to the head of the project, John Wheeler, the car is powered by a 2.5-litre five cylinder turbo loader engine with an output of 224/305 hp, making it the most powerful front-wheel drive vehicle on the road.

The car accelerates from zero to 100 km/h in 5.9 seconds and has a top speed of 263 km/h. Consumption is listed at 9.4 litres and C02 emissions at 225 g/km.

Wheeler conceded that such cars certainly are having a difficult time and so Ford will make an Econetic version for the more eco-conscious clientele. However, speed is all that counts for other customers, according to market analyst Stuermer. (dpa)

Business News: