Renault Clio v Ford Fiesta v Kia Rio v Volkswagen Polo

Light hatchbacks have never been this polished. The Renault Clio, Volkswagen Polo, Kia Rio and Ford Fiesta all make a convincing case for spending $19,990-plus on a high-grade light hatch, rather than a base model larger hatch.

The catalyst for this comparison test is the re-introduction of the regular Renault Clio models, in new fourth-generation form. The $19,790 Expression tested here offers a 1.2-litre turbocharged four-cylinder and six-speed dual-clutch automatic, exactly matching the configuration of the Volkswagen Polo in this test, although the $21,490 77TSI Comfortline scores an extra ratio for its dual-clutcher.

Although the Clio finally ends the VW Group’s monopoly on downsized, turbocharged engines in this class – as opposed to larger engines without a turbo that is the norm – the Ford Fiesta will soon, too.

2013 New Mercedes-Benz E63

At no point has any Mercedes-Benz E63 AMG driver thought this big, burly, twin-turbo V8 sedan needed more power. Not one.

Yet power is exactly what AMG, the Mercedes-Benz specialist performance division, continues to give the flagship E-Class. Prior to this facelift the E63 made 386kW of power and 720Nm of torque, with an optional Performance Pack taking those figures to 410kW and 800Nm; that optional extra and grunt advantage is now standard.
A new E63 AMG S-Model has been introduced, however, taking power to 430kW, and reducing the 0-100km/h sprint from 4.1 to 3.6 seconds.

To properly harness all that extra grunt the E63 AMG has migrated from being rear-wheel drive to all-wheel drive in S-Model guise only. Fears that an E63 sending partial drive to the front wheels would dilute the classic, tail-out oversteer antics for which AMG products are renowned are partially addressed by a fixed torque split – 67 per cent of drive always goes to the rear wheels, with only 33 per cent to the axle that does the steering.

Land Rover increasing focus on customisation

Land Rover’s design chief says the company is working on an expanded range of technical and cosmetic enhancements for customers looking to take the personalisation of their cars to the next level.

Land Rover design director Gerry McGovern told a small group of Australian journalists including CarAdvice at this month’s New York auto show that he has designers in his team working specifically on bespoke ETO (Engineered to Order) projects.

“That’s becoming an area of much bigger focus for us,” McGovern said. “It’s very important to our business.

“I split the studio into exterior design, interior design, and I have another one that looks at colour and materials and special projects including ETO, so I have designers in my department that are working specifically on ETO.

“We’re looking at ETO, what we can do in terms of offering more personalisation, which has to include higher-performance technical aspects, not just cosmetic ones.”

Sports Car Comparison: Porsche Cayman v Audi TT RS v Lotus Exige S

It’s been variously belittled as a Boxster with a roof, or the Porsche that tells people you can’t afford a 911 … but the Porsche Cayman emerged in 2005 to quickly establish itself as one of the great driver’s cars.

Named after a type of alligator rather than the tax-haven islands whose residents certainly could afford far more expensive Porsches, the Cayman arrived in 2013 in all-new form for the first time in eight years.

We’ve reviewed the new Porsche Cayman in isolation both overseas and on home soil, but how does it fare against two natural rivals?
We’ll be honest and reveal that this comparison wasn’t exactly strategically planned and was more a case of sports car planets aligning fortuitously.

Lotus test vehicles tend to be thin on the ground, and the one day an Exige S became available we just happened to have both a Cayman and the hottest version of the Audi TT in the garage.
It means it’s not quite the perfect match-up in terms of power.