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New York auto show: Small, sleek, sexy or more sedate

New vehicle designs cover all the angles with New York debuts

The Toronto Star for
NEW YORK—A very small car made a very big splash here at 114th consecutive running of the New York auto show.

Alfa Romeo may have left the North American market 20 years ago with its tail between its legs, but the new 4C sport coupe, which has been on sale in Europe for a few months now, certainly has the looks to bring enthusiasts to their knees — and likely back into the fold.

Brought to us by Fiat Chrysler, this diminutive slice of Italian exotica is all about lightness and agility.

The fully carbon-fibre tub houses a mid-mounted, turbocharged, and direct-injected 1742-cc four-cylinder engine that makes 237 horsepower. Peak torque of 258 lb.-ft. arrives at 2,200 r.p.m.

The 4C has no muffler, no power-steering assist and no manual transmission — only a six-speed twin-clutch auto with paddle shifters. Hey, Ferraris don’t have sticks any more, either, and this Alfa has more than a hint of Ferrari DNA in its bones.

It will be available in the States this summer, at a starting price of $54,000 US. We’ll get it in Canada, too, but no one is yet saying when or how much.

Other debuts

Mazda celebrated the MX-5 Miata’s 25th birthday with an array of models, past and present.

Marking the swan song of this third-generation sports car is a limited-edition 25th Anniversary Model, which features Soul Red Mica paint, special interior trim, performance Bridgestone tires on black alloys, and balanced and lighted engine bits for a freer revving experience.

Only 100 of these are coming to Canada, and they’ll be priced around $40,000.

Mazda also teased us with the next-generation MX-5 Miata — well, parts of it anyway.

The bare chassis on display adopts SkyActive technology (reduced weight and efficient gasoline engines). The four-cylinder engine is located closer to the centre of the vehicle and has a lower centre of gravity.

Insiders say this will be the smallest Miata ever. With an expected mass reduction of more than 100 kg, it could be the most entertaining as well. Expect to see it in 2016.

If you prefer your elemental roadsters with an Italian accent, Alfa Romeo will be building its own version on this chassis.

Toyota debuted its new Camry sedan — a mid-size vehicle that has been the best-selling car in the U.S. for the past 12 years.

With only the roof panel carried over, the 2015 model sports a sleeker look, riffing on some of the styling cues seen on the revamped Corolla, including the big gaping grill. Still, the new Camry is one of the more conservative lookers in the segment.

The interior is markedly improved, showing richer materials and fewer obtuse angles. We can also expect a quieter cabin, thanks to better door sealing and added insulation.

Toyota tells us this is the best-handling Camry to date, with a retuned suspension and electric power steering. The top-trim XSE model, with 18-inch alloys, unique dampers, bushings and higher-rated springs, offers an even zippier experience.

No changes to the drivetrains, however: the four-cylinder, six-cylinder and hybrid engines carry forward.

Hyundai revealed its all-new Sonata sedan, a car clearly targeting the Camry’s enviable lock on this segment.

The previous Sonata was a bit past its best-before date, so the seventh-generation 2015 model has a lot riding on its somewhat broader shoulders.

Not as distinctively designed as the outgoing model, it opts for a more upscale, mature look. Likewise, the interior appears simpler and smarter. Materials are better and there’s more passenger room.

The previous Sonata’s key flaw was its lack of cabin isolation and unrefined ride. With the new model, Hyundai touts an all-new chassis with significantly improved ride, handling and NVH (noise, vibration and harshness). There is a raft of driver-assistance technologies available, as well.

The 2.5-L four and 2.0-L turbocharged four have been massaged to provide a fatter torque curve, all in the name of mid-range urge and drivability.

Horsepower figures are actually down marginally, but that’s something you won’t see in the marketing push. Look for it late this summer.

Although the Toyota and Hyundai family sedans are conservatively drawn, the style guns are blazing for Nissan’s 2015 Murano mid-size crossover.

Not only does the Murano cut a bold profile, it also cuts through the air, with a class-leading 0.31 drag coefficient, thanks to front and rear spoilers, lower grill shutters, suspension fairings and rear-tire air deflectors.

The light-tan leather interior of the display model looked gorgeous. Cargo capacity is up and fuel consumption is down — by 20 per cent according to Nissan, helped in no small part by its 59 kg diet.

With up to four onboard cameras and three radar systems, this crossover joins the fray of well-intentioned vehicles late this year.

Automakers have been trying to make a sexy minivan forever. Looks like Kia may have come closest with this 2015 Sedona.

Oops, I said the M-word. Kia is calling this front-drive, three-row hauler with sliding side doors an MPV (multi-purpose vehicle). Call it what you want, the minivan is still the smartest way to move families and their stuff around, and this all-new Kia will offer another solid (dare I say, stylish?) choice when it goes on sale this fall.

The Korean automaker’s design flair is evident both inside and out. Lift-over height is low and both the second and third rows fold flat into the floor.

Motivation comes from the same 276-hp 3.3-L V6 found in the Hyundai Santa Fe XL. This minivan is built on a completely new structure that is stronger and lighter than that of the outgoing model.

For parents who wish to keep a tab on their teenagers, Kia will offer geo-fencing, speed alert, curfew alert and driving score. Big Mother is watching. Not that your teen will want to go joy riding in a minivan … er, MPV.

Other notable reveals here included the new Acura TSX, Subaru Outback, Dodge Challenger and compact Jeep Renegade.