The auto industry is all about tomorrow. OEMs are working on vehicles right now that will be for sale in 2020 and beyond. What’s new to you today is old news to them. Which is why at the 2016 Los Angeles Auto Show, excuse us, the 2016 Automobility LA show (the owners changed the name because, according to them, it’s not just about vehicles anymore, it’s about mobility, cough, cough, hack hack), you’re seeing 2017 and 2018 vehicles, with concepts that you’ll see in production in 2019. It’s equal parts thrill and depression as you look at the new models yet realize your brand-new car is already dated. But it’s always fun to see what they predict the public will want to buy years from now. The majority of introductions were SUVs, which is exactly where the market is headed. But there was a good mix of smaller cars, luxury cars, green cars, and concepts as well. We’ve divided the introductions into three sections: Small Rides and Sedans is Part I. Click for Part II, SUVs, and click this one for Part II, Trucks and Luxury Rides.
Small cars are necessary to the manufacturers to help with CAFE standards, plus they all need an entry model to bring the young, non-affluent buyers into the family. There were other small rides introduced at the auto show, but they also fall into the SUV/crossover segment in the next section, so we put them there.
2017 Chevrolet Spark ACTIV
Even though the word ACTIV has been commandeered by Mazda already for its SKYACTIV technology, that hasn’t stopped Chevrolet for attaching the moniker to its “sporty” new Spark minicar. (Can sporty and Spark actually be used in the same sentence?) The Spark ACTIV goes on sale next year for a base price of $16,945 with a manual transmission. So what makes it sporty? How about a new grille pattern with the word ACTIV on it? Or a new 15-inch wheel design? A revised suspension to bump up the ride height just under a half inch? Sure, they added rocker moldings and roof rails, and some interior features like air conditioning and power windows, but the engine remains the same 1.4-liter Ecotec that produces a meek 98 horsepower and 94 lb-ft of torque, less than a Fiat 500. So we say, let’s stop calling things sporty if it’s only cosmetic and feature changes. Trust us, it won’t make you feel any better about spending $17,000 for this car.
2017 Nissan Versa Note
When it was first introduced, the Nissan Versa Note was the most luxurious subcompact vehicle on the market. Now it moves into 2017 with front-end styling that’s in keeping with the Nissan family face: the “V-Motion” grille that’s integrated with the headlamps. Inside features many improvements driven by owners: larger cupholders, a second 12v outlet for certain trims, and relocation of power outlets to the front center console. All this newness for a base price of $15,480 is a great deal, especially compared to the Chevrolet Spark ACTIV, which has less power for more money.
Honda Civic Si Prototype
The Civic Si Sedan and Coupe prototypes made an appearance at the auto show, and we know it will be one of the most popular vehicles for real buyers. The display car wore a Honda Factory Performance aero kit, with front and rear splitters, a rear spoiler, and center exhaust. Big 19-inch wheels and tires looked good under the body. The engine will be the 1.5-liter turbo DOHC I4 with dual variable cam timing matched to a short-shifting six-speed manual transmission. Other mods include new active shocks, active steering, a limited-slip diff, and high-performance tires. Inside, there’s Si-themed front seats with stitching, a red TFT IP and audio system illumination, aluminum sport pedals, and Dry Metal Carbon IP trim. The Civic Si will go on sale sometime next year.
MINI Countryman and MINI Cooper S E Countryman
MINI might need to rethink it’s name and go with MIDI instead. The once diminutive brand reintroduces the biggest MINI ever, the Countryman. The Countryman has been completely redesigned and reengineered, and features an available all-new ALL4 AWD system. There’s 30 percent more cargo room for your stuff, sliding, folding rear seats for even more of your stuff, a tall roofline, and an adjustable trunk floor to fit the rest of your stuff. There’s more front and rear head room for your body stuff, and an available Panorama sunroof if your stuffed head can’t fit inside all the way. Power is via an inline three-cylinder MINI TwinPower Turbo gas engine, or if you want to be really green, go for the MINI Cooper S E Countryman plug-in hybrid, which features an electric hybrid synchronous motor paired with the I3 gas engine. The twin-turbo engine pumps out over 40 percent more torque than the previous model (134 horsepower/162 lb-ft of torque), while the S E produces a combined peak output of 221 horsepower and 121 lb-ft of torque. Other features Countrymen customers will appreciate include keyless entry, MINI Connected infotainment system, rain-sensing wipers, and park distance control.