Expect a bonanza of new cars in year of changes
What's new from A to V The sleek Alfa Romeo 4C will be here by the second quarter of the year. -- PHOTOS: ALFA ROMEO

This year is likely to be more interesting than usual for car buyers.

First, there is a new way of categorising car certificates of entitlement (COEs). Models qualifying for Category A - where the bulk of car COEs resides - must not produce more than 130bhp, on top of the existing 1,600cc engine displacement cap.

All other cars go into Category B, which has long been the preserve of larger, more costly models.

It is also a year which will see COE supply start to reverse seven consecutive years of contractions. The increase this year will, however, be incremental and only detectable in the second half. Premiums should start easing as a result.

But for folks eyeing Category B cars, they are likely to still face stiff prices because the segment will be more "crowded" with the migration of several models that were previously in Cat A.

The year will be interesting for a second reason. It will see the arrival of many benchmark models. For instance: the Alfa Romeo 4C, which will be the first Alfa here to approach $400,000. And the new Toyota Corolla Altis is likely to raise the bar for its segment by a couple of notches.

Elsewhere, Porsche's Macan (pronounced ma-chan) will stir things up in the compact SUV segment, while BMW's i3 will add sizzle to the small but growing electric field. The year will also see the return of an American icon: the Ford Mustang.

Together with a slew of other new models, they will vie for attention in one of the smallest but most competitive car markets in the world.

Alfa Romeo: The super light, super quick and super sleek 4C will be here by the second quarter of the year. Unfortunately, the mid-engined sports car will also be super expensive. At between $370,000 and $400,000, it is even pricier than a basic variant of the Porsche Cayman. But boy, does it have the looks to die for.

Alpina: The XD3, the world's quickest diesel-fired SUV (0-100kmh in 4.9 seconds), will debut in the second quarter. It will be followed by the D5, a turbodiesel variant based on the BMW 5-series.

Aston Martin: James Bond's favourite brand will unveil its Vantage S soon. It is powered by a 6-litre V12 packing 620Nm of torque. Mated to a new seven-speed Sportshift III transmission, it is said to be capable of reaching 329kmh.

Audi: It will be a fairly busy year for the marque, with sedan versions of the A3 and S3 arriving to compete in a segment Audi is new to. There will also be an A3 Cabriolet, followed by new engine variants of the A8 limousine, and a delectable S8.

BMW: The Bavarian brand will have an even busier year. The 4-series Convertible will arrive, as will the 2-series (coupe version of the 1-series) and the 2-series Convertible. The high-tech and luxurious X5 will also make its way to showrooms this year. But it will probably be the battery-powered i3 that will hog the limelight this year.

From the M division, we can expect the X5 M50d in the first quarter, M2 Coupe in the second, M4 Coupe and M3 Sedan in the third, and M4 Convertible in the fourth.

Chevrolet: The much-delayed Trax will lead Chevy into the compact SUV segment. It has room for five passengers, a generous cargo area and a choice of engines. Unfortunately, the only petrol version belonging to Cat A is a relatively feeble 113bhp 1.6-litre. There is a pretty decent 128bhp 1.7-litre turbodiesel too, but that will cost a lot more in road tax.

Citroen: The MPV segment will heat up with the arrival of the latest C4 Picasso and Grand Picasso - stylish multi-seaters that only Citroen knows how to churn out.

Ford: The American manufacturer has new launches in three different segments this year.

The facelifted 1-litre Fiesta will tempt those looking for a small, frugal but generously equipped subcompact. Likewise, the handsome all-new Mondeo will suit those who want a big car with a small heart. It is available with a wide range of engines, including 1.5-litre and 1-litre turbos, turbodiesels and hybrids. If the 1-litre is headed here, the Mondeo will be among the biggest cars in Cat A. The other is the Camry-sized VW Passat 1.4.

But it will be the new Mustang that will make heads spin when it arrives towards the end of the year. It will be the first new Mustang here in nearly 50 years. Three engine variants are likely: a 2.3- litre turbo, 3-litre V6 and 5-litre supercharged.

Honda: Three new models are due within the first half of the year. The Vezel compact SUV may just be the car for those who find its CR-V a tad bulky. The new Odyssey MPV sheds its sleek profile to adopt a more Estima-like outline (presumably for more room). And the latest Jazz will be available in petrol- electric form. It is said to be capable of a class-leading fuel economy of 2.75 litres/100km.

Hyundai: The Korean is reverting to its previous naming format. And it is making a foray into the premium sedan segmet, with the new Genesis saloon. Powered by a 3.3-litre V6, it is expected to arrive by mid-year. The new Sonata (previously i45) will debut in September and will be significantly better equipped than its taxi variant. The popular Elantra will also be facelifted.

Infiniti: The Q50 luxury sedan will be Infiniti’s star attraction this year. It will have a turbocharged 2-litre petrol engine, its first compact power plant. There will also be a 3.7-litre petrol, a 3.5-litre hybrid and a 2.2-litre turbodiesel. In future, there is likely to be even a 1.6-litre turbocharged variant.

Jaguar: The F-Type Coupe will make as big a splash as its Roadster twin did last year. The new bad cat will be led by an R version that boasts 550 horses and a century sprint of 4 seconds flat. In short, more hardcore than the already lethal Roadster.

Kia: The coupe version of the stylish and able Cerato, called the Certato Koup, will debut in the second half. And an all-new model of the Sorento SUV should arrive by year-end.

Lamborghini: It will be a chilly third quarter as the Huracan is due to blow in then. The successor to the successful Gallardo shows off a new body and a new 610-horsepower V10. It flies to 100kmh in 3.2 seconds, and on to a top velocity of 325kmh. It is the first Lambo to have dual-clutch transmission.

Land Rover: A hybrid version of the Range Rover Sport is due, and possibly a nine-speed version of the Evoque too.

Lexus: A facelifted CT200h will land in Lexus’ showroom in the second quarter. But adrenaline will flow some time in the fourth quarter, when the sizzling RC Coupe arrives. The latter is Lexus’ most exciting car since the LF-A. The 2+2 will boast a new petrolelectric hybrid system that is more efficient and powerful than current systems.

Maserati: The Ghibli returns to lead Maserati sales to new heights. Its 3-litre bi-turbo V6 bi-turbo churns out 330bhp and 500Nm, allowing it to hit 100kmh in 5 seconds.

Mazda: The roomier and more premium Mazda3 will do battle with Toyota’s Corolla Altis, while its just-launched Biante multi-seater will attempt to conquer some of its MPV sales.

Mercedes-Benz: An appreciably larger C-class, with design cues taken from the new S-class, will be one of the new models that will heat up premium car sales (not to mention Cat B premiums). The car is said to be so complete that it might even steal some customers from the E-class. Similarly, the new GLA will whip up competition in the compact SUV segment. It is, after all, Merc’s first foray into the growing niche.

Mini: How big can a Mini be? The answer lies in the latest Cooper, which is 10m longer, 4cm wider and 7cm taller than the current model. It will also be packed with a lot more technology. Never mind that that flies in the face of the Original, but what’s with the Pokemon face?

Mitsubishi: We have not seen a new Mitsubishi in a while but a new Outlander is said to be just around the corner. It will be a full seven-seater with a variety of drivetrains, including a petrol- electric hybrid and 2-litre Mivec. Choice of two-wheel and fourwheel- drive will also be available.

Nissan: The latest Qashqai is bigger and better equipped. But those who want a full-fledged SUV may want to wait for the X-Trail, which returns this year. A dire need for speed can be satiated only by the GT-R Nismo. The 3.8-litre 600bhp giant killer will be brought in only on special order though.

Porsche: The 911 GT3 and Turbo S will be unleashed in the middle of this month. But the Porsche to look out for is the Macan, a mini-Cayenne that should arrive by mid-year. In fact, order books for it are already filling up fast. Prices start from $258,888 before COE.

Renault: The just-landed Clio RS should be quite a hoot. Under its bonnet is a 200bhp 1.6-litre turbo engine mated to a dual-clutch autobox with paddle shifters. An updated Megane CC is also due this year.

Subaru: The long-awaited new WRX and WRX STi will be here. The latter, available in four- or five-door, is powered by a 2.5-litre turbo Boxer mated to either a six-speed manual or five-speed auto transmitting traction to four wheels. The manuals hit 100kmh in 5.2 seconds while the autos do it in 6.

Suzuki: The new all-wheel-drive SX4 Crossover is due early this year. Boasting class-leading space and efficiency, it is built at the Magyar Suzuki plant in Hungary.

Toyota: The all-new Corolla Altis launching this month is probably the most significant Toyota model in a long while. The car looks sportier and more modern, with short overhangs and a longer wheelbase (2,700mm). It is fitted with LED headlights and LED daytime-running lights, and 16-inch two-tone alloys. Only one engine variant is available: a 1.6-litre with the latest VVT-i mated to a continuously variable transmission that mimics the ebb and flow of traditional autoboxes. Inside, it gets climate control with in-built ioniser, soft plastics all round, keyless access and ignition, and factory-fitted infotainment with satellite-navigation. It also qualifies for a $5,000 carbon rebate.

Volkswagen: If the GTI is still not hot enough for you, wait for the Golf R, a 300bhp, 380Nm all-wheel-drive hatch that completes the century sprint in 4.9 seconds. For a more leisurely wind-in-your-hair drive, wait for the Beetle Cabriolet. And if practicality is what you need, the new Golf Variant is also on its way.

Volvo: A diesel hatch arrives. The V40 D2 will join diesel versions of the S60, S80 and V60 – all of which will help maintain Volvo’s presence in Cat A.