Alfa Romeo will be going for diesel in a big way during 2003. Previously the preserve of the 156 with the 2.4 JTD, other models in the range will gain common rail diesels from the spring.
The 147 and 156 will each have a 115bhp 1.9-litre JTD in the spring, while a 140bhp 16-valve version will also be added to both ranges later in the year.
Meanwhile the 156 and, for the first time in the UK, the 166 will have an uprated 2.4 JTD towards the end of the year, boasting about 175bhp. Company car drivers will then have a whole range of Alfas with lower benefit-in-kind liability.
At the other end of the scale, the 147 gets the GTA treatment in March, using the same 250bhp 3.2-litre V6 found in the 156 GTA, while the GTV range is likely to be revised in 2003, also with a 3.2-litre GTA version.
AUDI begins the year with thoughts of warmer weather with an entry-level A4 Cabriolet, using a 150bhp 1.8- litre turbocharged engine.
However, its elegant new luxury saloon, the A8, will also find its way to UK showrooms later in the spring. Around the same time Audi will launch the all-new A3 model, its premium lower-medium hatchback.
The TT range will gain two new additions in the spring. A 3.2-litre V6 with sequential manual gearbox will join the range, along with an entry-level TT Roadster, with a 150bhp 1.8-litre turbocharged engine and front- wheel drive. A V8-engined S4 will arrive in March, raising the stakes against the likes of the BMW M3 and Mercedes-Benz C32 AMG.
A DIESEL 7-series will make its debut in the UK for the first time in the spring, in the form of the new 730d, while the 730i and 760i will complete the range at the same time.
The new Z4 will reach the UK in June, promising a more dynamic driving experience than its predecessor, the Z3.
The M3 coupe loses some weight in June with the CSL version, bringing more extreme performance, while certain 3-series models gain a six-speed gearbox in March, and the 3-series coupe gains a diesel in the form of the 330Cd. There will be a new 5-series in 2004 and we should see it before the end of 2003.
THE firm starts the year with the new C8 MPV. The unique points of this people carrier are limited to the styling, but, like its Peugeot and Fiat siblings (the 807 and Ulysse) it promises more space, hi-tech features and versatility than before. Late in the spring, we will also see the new C3 Pluriel, a multi-role version of the supermini which can be a hatchback, convertible or even a pick-up truck.
CHRYSLER'S Voyager MPV will go under the knife in September for a mid-term facelift, while the PT Cruiser medium car/MPV crossover will gain an entry-level diesel – a 2.2 CRD Classic – in February. So far it has only been available in Touring and Limited specification.
However, in November Chrysler will launch its Crossfire – a rakish six-cylinder coupe to rival the Audi TT.
THE estate version of the Stilo will go on sale in February – called Multi Wagon – while the new Ulysse MPV, Fiat Auto's shared project with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, gives the company a state-of-the-art people carrier in its model line-up.
There are rumours of the new 16-valve 1.9 JTD engine finding its way into the Stilo, but Fiat is so far unable to confirm this.
However, as long as the engine is used in the Alfa Romeo 147 and 156 first, we think it is only a matter of time before we get a really high-performance diesel-engined Stilo hatchback.
FORD has a busy year with the launch of three-door Fiesta models in January, with lower specification 1.6-litre models – January for the three-door 1.6 Zetec and March for the five-door. The Streetka – a roadster based on the Ka – will go on sale in the spring with a high-performance hatchback version, the Sportka, coming in the summer.
Meanwhile, Ford also plans to launch a Focus-based compact MPV called C-Max. A late starter in the mini-MPV game, Ford has much catching up to do, but the C-Max concept car which did the rounds at European motor shows in 2002 looks promising. Daewoo
WITH the new Kalos supermini already on sale, GM Daewoo plans to revise the Daewoo Nubira with Pininfarina styling. A five-door hatchback and estate follow the four-door saloon in the spring.
A NEW Japanese-built Accord will go on sale in February with an estate, called the Tourer, coming in May. There will be no diesel until 2004, so company car drivers will have to be content with the excellent 2.0-litre petrol engine for low benefit-in-kind tax liability until then. Six-speed gearboxes are standard for 189bhp 2.4- litre models.
There will be a second Honda hybrid on sale next year, giving fleets another option to qualify for discounts on congestion charging in London. Called the Civic IMA, it has a four-door saloon body with a 1.3i-DSI engine and a 10kw electric motor, with fuel consumption of more than 50mpg and emissions of about 120g/km.
Other new models include a Civic Type-R to mark 30 years of Civic production, while the five-door Civic range also gains a new flagship in the 2.0-litre 158bhp Type-S.
THE Hyundai Accent gets a facelift in February, while the new Getz supermini will become available with a common rail turbodiesel engine in June. The Trajet MPV and the Sonata could also undergo some revisions towards the end of the year.
JAGUAR'S big story of 2003 will be the new XJ which is scheduled to go on sale in the spring. With traditional styling combined with an aluminium body and the latest six and eight-cylinder engines, it will have the style and substance to go head-to-head with the likes of Mercedes-Benz, Audi and BMW. Want a diesel S-type? Try 2004.
THERE will be a bigger common rail diesel engine available for the Cherokee from March, and the company is so convinced of its ability it will even go on sale in America. The Cherokee 2.8 CRD will be sold alongside the existing 2.5 CRD and offer stronger opposition to the likes of the 3.0-litre Nissan Terrano. The Grand Cherokee will be freshened up in the summer, four years after it was launched.
KIA will have a revised Magentis, Rio and Carens on sale in January, while February will witness the launch of the Sorento, which promises luxury features and off-roading prowess for the price of a compact SUV.
LAND Rover is having a relatively quiet year in 2003 following the launch of the new Range Rover and facelifted Discovery in 2002. However, the Freelander will gain a fresh look in the autumn.
IT might seem quite new to us in the UK, but the RX300, which was launched several years ago in the US, gets a thorough makeover in May following its debut in Detroit.
THE first Mazda launch of 2003 will be the new Mazda2 – a replacement for the Demio. The five-door only supermini also promises to be one of the first Euro IV diesel cars on sale in the UK.
Meanwhile, the company's 'zoom-zoom' campaign will build up to the launch of the RX-8. The rotary-engined car is expected to go on sale for about £24,000 in July.
LEAVING the Mercedes-Benz brand to one side for a moment, the company is launching the first new car wearing a Maybach badge for decades. The luxury marque re-launches with a choice of two saloon versions – one long, the other even longer. Although with prices starting at nearly £244,000, few fleet budgets would stretch to including such vehicles.
Returning to Earth, an estate version of the new E-class will go on sale in the summer, along with a CLK Cabriolet. The SL range also gets topped and tailed with V6 and V12-engined versions in the summer, too.
AFTER a year when MG Rover launched LPG-converted versions of its 1.8- litre cars, a low-emission turbocharged 1.8-litre petrol engine and power upgrades for its diesel range, 2003 does not seem to have much change for fleet operators. Drivers, on the other hand, could well be drooling over the outrageous new SV sportscar, due for launch in late spring, along with a rear-wheel drive V8-engined ZT 260. Later in the year there will be an even more powerful ZT, with about 380bhp. Emissions? Don't ask.
MINI sales in Europe should be given a boost next year with a 1.4-litre common rail diesel, sourced from Toyota. It goes on sale in the UK in the summer, but take-up is likely to be modest because of the lack of tax incentives to choose diesel power in small cars.
THE Shogun gets a mild facelift to start the year, and there will be a new SUV joining the range in the autumn, called the Outlander (previously seen at motor shows as the Airtrek).
Looking further ahead there will be a new Colt in Europe in 2004, as well as an Evo VIII.
NISSAN'S cute new Micra will go on sale this month, along with a more powerful X-trail, sporting a 2.5-litre engine. Diesel versions of the Micra will follow in February, with more powerful diesel variants expected in August.
Meanwhile, October will witness the introduction of the long-awaited 350Z coupe, another threat to the Audi TT's crown.
PEUGEOT starts the year with its new 807 MPV going on sale, followed by the 180bhp 206 GTi in the spring. Meanwhile the 307 range gets a coupe/cabriolet in the autumn with an electric folding hard top, as seen on the 206 CC. We have been told Peugeot will introduce Euro IV compliant diesel engines in 2003. There is no word from Peugeot yet on when in 2003 that will be, but with Mazda, Toyota, Volkswagen and Vauxhall set to introduce their first Euro IV diesels in the first half of the year, it would be foolish to think that Peugeot is going to be left behind.
RENAULT'S first new model in 2003 will be the latest version of the Espace available in February. With more engine variants than ever before, along with new V6 petrol and diesel versions, Renault is trying to offer a large MPV that will also appeal to drivers of executive cars.
A revised version of the Clio V6 will go on sale in May, with a revamped engine and chassis. The new Scenic, based on the latest Megane, will arrive in the UK in September while a convertible version of the hatchback appears around the same time, sporting a folding hard roof. We might get a glimpse of the Renaultsport Megane before the end of the year, with saloon and estate versions expected to arrive in 2004.
THE 9-3 replacement programme continues in 2003 with a new convertible coming in September. An estate version is also expected to join the range, but not until 2004.
A QUIET year for the sporty brand within the VW Group, apart from the launch of the Cordoba – a four-door saloon based on the Ibiza – due in May.
SKODA will launch a new entry-level model in the Fabia range in the spring, using a three-cylinder 1.2-litre engine already seen in the Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza. Meanwhile, the high-performance Octavia vRS will also be available as an estate.
A ROADSTER and Roadster Coupe will be launched by smart in September. With a more sporty appearance than the current two-seater smarts, they should attract a new generation of drivers who are not old enough to remember cars like the Suzuki Cappuccino and Honda Beat.
THE restyled Impreza will go on sale in February, answering some of the criticisms of the controversial design of the existing model.
We also know that Subaru is developing an LPG programme in the UK which it plans to extend across its range of 2.0-litre, 2.5-litre and 3.0- litre cars. There is no clue yet as to when this will happen, but we expect it to be up and running during the year.
TOYOTA begins the year with the new Land Cruiser going on sale, promising true off-road ability and premium quality. The car comes in three- and five-door variants, with a 161bhp 3.0-litre D-4D engine. A 4.0 V6 will join the range in March but Toyota expects this version to make up 2% of sales.
The big fleet launch from Toyota this year will be the new Avensis, which goes on sale in March in petrol saloon, hatchback and estate body styles. A Euro IV-compliant diesel will join the range in May with a super-clean diesel ready by the end of the year when sulphur-free fuel becomes more widely available.
THE first big product news from Vauxhall this year will be the launch of a Euro IV- compliant common rail diesel Astra in March. Fleet News reported this exclusively on September 13.
Also in the spring, the Vectra will become available with a 3.0-litre common rail diesel – keeping it on terms with rivals such as the Volkswagen Passat, whose drivers have long had access to six-cylinder diesels. Meanwhile the Meriva will arrive in showrooms in April, followed by the Signum in June. Later in the year the Vectra estate will go on sale.
A CONVERTIBLE version of the Beetle will go on sale in the spring, while the new Touran – a Golf-based MPV – complete with up to seven seats and Euro IV-compliant diesels will arrive in the summer.
Volkswagen's two luxury vehicles, the Touareg off-roader and the Phaeton saloon, will go on sale in the late summer.
VOLVO'S new SUV, the XC90 will arrive in D5 guise early in the year, with the petrol-engined T6 arriving in the spring.
The high-performance S60R and V70R will go on sale in the summer, while we might get our first look at the S40/V40 replacement, sharing a platform with the next Ford Focus, in December.