New models with diesel or lower-powered engines remain in Category A under new rules
Premium presence in Cat A Audi Singapore’s managing director Jeff Mannering with the newly launched A3 Sedan, which has a 122bhp, 1.4-litre turbocharged engine and falls under Category A. -- ST PHOTO: CHRISTOPHER TAN

A number of European brands are staying put in COE Category A when a new power cap for the category kicks in next month.

Volvo, Citroen, Volkswagen and Audi have brought or are bringing in a slew of diesel and low-powered models that falls below the 130bhp limit for Cat A cars.

The limit - on top of an existing 1,600cc ceiling on engine capacity - was introduced to create a more level playing field in Cat A. The category has long been the preserve of mass market models, until brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW started having 1.6-litre models about four years ago.

In response to complaints that premium cars were squeezing out bread-and- butter cars - because their sellers had fatter margins and buyers had deeper pockets - the Government introduced the power cap.

Many of these premium cars have turbocharged petrol engines that produce more than 130bhp. From next month, they will migrate over to Cat B, where bigger cars reside.

But Volvo Cars has brought in a wide range of diesel variants that meet the new power cap. These include the large S80 sedan, the V40 premium hatchback, V60 wagon and S60 compact performance sedan.

Like all diesel cars, they have relatively low horsepower but high torque levels.

Citroen has done likewise. Diesel versions of its C4, C5, DS4 and DS5 are already here. Its C4 Picasso, a compact MPV, and seven-seater Grand C4 Picasso will have diesel variants here soon.

The cars not only meet the new power limit, but they also qualify for carbon rebates of as much as $15,000.

Citroen also claims that its cars can run on Malaysian diesel, which has a higher sulphur content than diesel sold here.

Over at Audi, a number of new models planned before the COE re-categorisation exercise arrive this year.

They include the A1 Sportback, A3 Sportback and A3 Sedan. The last model, a handsome saloon that is almost as big as the previous A4, is expected to be a mass seller.

At its launch on Thursday, Audi Singapore managing director Jeff Mannering said: "With this car, I'm claiming today Audi already has the lead in the Cat A premium segment."

He also pointed out that Audi was among the "very few" brands that posted sales growth last year.

The Hungary-made A3 Sedan, fitted with a 122bhp 1.4-litre turbocharged engine mated to a seven-speed automatic transmission, has a list price of around $180,000. But the net price is expected to be as low as $150,000.

Sister brand Volkswagen will progressively introduce no fewer than 13 cars that meet the new power cap this year. They include a 1.6-litre 105bhp turbodiesel Touran seven-seater, a 1.2-litre 105bhp Golf and a 1.4-litre 122bhp Jetta sedan.

But Mercedes-Benz and BMW - the two top-selling brands that dominated Cat A - are staying out of the fray. At least for the time being.

They are expected, however, to introduce 122bhp models eventually. These include the Mercedes-Benz A, B, CLA and GLA-class, and the BMW 1, 2 and 3-series.

The new model of the hot-selling Merc C-class is unlikely to have a petrol version that meets the power cap, though. But a diesel version will.

When these cars arrive, they are likely to drive up Cat A COE premiums again.