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Hyundai is ready to join the hybrid war and they’ve announced that the Paris Motor Show will mark the debut of their most recent development, a Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid concept. Powered by a 2.4 liter petrol engine mated to a six-speed automatic transmission and paired with a 30kW electric-assist motor powered by lithium-ion batteries, Hyundai claims that the SUV will get 36 US mpg (44 UK mpg or 5.35 liter/100km) will CO2 emissions are kept at 148g/km. That’s important for places like the UK, where cars are taxed based on their emissions. More details and information will be revealed in Paris. No further details, but we’ll be at the Paris show and we’ll let you know once we get more info, so stay tuned.

Read More: “36 mpg Hyundai Santa Fe hybrid concept scheduled for Paris”

It seems like the Spanish dudes from km77 have some pretty cool inside sources all over the place, because after publishing some leaked photos of the new Renault Megane on Monday, now they came up with a leaked photo of the Mazda MX-5 (Miata) facelift. This is not the first leaked image of the Miata, but the other ones were some sketches leaked from the European Union’s Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM). This seems to be a leaked official photo and unveils the MX-5′s exterior. We get to see that there are no major changes, with the front part getting a newly shaped grille, restyled bumper with front splitter and new fog light inserts, while it looks like the headlights were also redesigned.

Unfortunately, there is no extra info about the car, so know nothing of any mechanical upgrades or if Mazda will change the engine range. The facelifted MX-5 (Miata) will probably debut at the Paris Motor Show, but Mazda will probably make a press release sooner.

Read More: “Mazda MX-5 (Miata) leaked photo”

Opel’s British arm, Vauxhall, announced today that the Astra TwinTop will be available with a VXR bodykit, which will include a restyled front spoiler skirt, side sills, rear spoiler and lower spoiler skirt. The more aggressive look of the TwinTop fitted with the VXR kit is inspired by Vauxhall’s record-breaking British Touring Car Championship team. And it looks really good, wondering if US designers will do the same good job.

The full bodykit is available for £1,399 (around $2,500) and Vauxhall also offfers the possibility for the rear spoiler to be fitted separately for £299 (around $530). All prices include installation and painting to match body color. For customers wanting more than a bodykit, Vauxhall offers more accessories such as sport exhausts, stainless steel pedals and alloy wheels.

Read More: “Vauxhall Astra TwinTop gets VXR styling kit”

Though no official press release has been made, here are the first photos of the facelift for the Lexus IS, that will make its world debut at the Paris Motor Show. Like we said, there’s no official info so far, but we can see that the car has a restyled front grille, tail lamp crystals featuring L-shaped back-up lights, exterior mirrors with integrated turn signals and new designs for the alloy wheels, that might also come in 17 and 18 inch sizes. Rumors also say that the car will get new exterior colors and new Vehicle Dynamics Integrated Management (VDIM) stability control system.

Check out more photos after the jump. Read More: “First official photos of the 2009 Lexus IS facelift”

The new VW Golf VI is almost and everyone is curious about the car. With the Golf VI available right after the Paris Motor Show debut, VW launched a special website, where you can customize the car and the guys from Carscoop had the patience to take snapshots of all available exterior colors and interior trims (Trendline, Comfortline and Highline). See them all after the jump. Read More: “More 2009 VW Golf VI interior and exterior colors”

Geez, the Nissan GT-R is not event out on the market yet and they’re already starting to drop like flies. After we’ve seen GT-R’s crashed in Malaysia and by the TopGear folks, now another one showed up, this time in the United States (if we remember correctly, this might be the first US crash). We’re not sure what happened, but the folks from MyGTR say something about a guy crashing it into a pizza parlor. It really doesn’t matter what happened, what’s for sure is that the car (love that red color) is pretty damaged. More photos after the jump. Read More: “Nissan GT-R wrecked in the US”

Because about 10 percent of Ferrari customers want a manual transmission on their cars, the Italian manufacturer has announced that the ucoming Ferrari California will get a manual transmission besides the standard seven-speed dual-clutch gearbox. Also, Ferrari said that the California will also HGTC handling package (available on the 612 Scaglietti and the 575 M Maranello), but no further details were released. Rumors say that the package could include a new exhaust system, new set of tires, stiffer anti-roll bars, sportier traction control system and a set of vented carbon-ceramic discs with Brembo calipers.

Read More: “Upcoming Ferrari California to get manual transmission and HGTC handling package”

Ten years ago, the auto world welcomed a new member, the Smart, a car that amazed everyone especially with its dimensions. Though jokes about the car’s size are still made, the Smart was a big hit, with three more versions following the original mini car, the sports cars Smart roadster and Smart roadster-coupé in 2003 and the four-seater smart forfour in 2004. Last year, the second generation Smart debuted and followed the success of its predecessor.

The Smart stroy started in 1989, when Nicolas G. Hayek, the inventor of the Swatch watch, announced plans to launch a small city car on the market. He realized he couldn’t accomplish that without help from an experienced partner, so he turned to Mercedes-Benz and the two founded Micro Compact Car AG with headquarters in Biel, Switzerland. Finally, in 1997 the smart city coupé celebrated its world premiere at the Frankfurt International Motor Show, and production and sales started in 1998. In the same year, smart became a wholly-owned subsidiary of Daimler-Benz AG (now Daimler AG). At its launch, the Smart was on sale in Germany and eight European countries, while today it is available in 37 countries worldwide (including the USA, since January 2008). From mid 2009 the smart fortwo will also go on sale in China, where Daimler has a lot of problems with the large amount of copycats.

So, a big “Happy Birthday!” for Smart, because it really was a car that revolutionized the “urban car” concept. Read more about it in the official press release.

Read More: “Happy 10th anniversary, Smart!”

According to Automotive News, GM is considering moving design for some of its non-US models to the United States. And don’t think that they’re planning on doing that because the US designers are awesome, but because they’ve got a lot of spare time, with GM canceling or delaying a lot of US models, such as the Chevrolet Impala or the Buick sedan. Unlike their US colleagues, employees from the German and Korean design departments have their hands full, especially with GM’s recent small car programs, so some design work for Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and Daewoo might be done in the future in Michigan.

“We have had a couple studios where some projects have been canceled,” said Ed Welburn, GM’s design vice president. “We have other studios that are totally overloaded. We just need to level that work around the globe.”

Read More: “GM USA to handle design work for European models”

Yesterday, Kia released a set of photos and more info on their upcoming Kia Soul. Back in March, we saw the Soul triplets at the Geneva show, but the production version will make its debut at next month’s Paris Motor Show. Though Kia calls the Soul an “urban crossover”, ee’re not sure in what segment to place the car, it has things in common with mini and compact hatchback, while its appearance places it closer to the crossover segment.

Under the hood, the Kia Soul will be offered with both petrol and diesel engines. The smallest engine, offered in most countries, will be a 1.6 liter petrol unit that develops 126 hp at 6,300 rpm and 156 Nm (115-lbs/ft) of torque at 4,200 rpm, while European customers will also get a 1.6 liter turbodiesel that will deliver 126 hp at 4,000 rpm and 255 Nm (188-lbs/ft) of torque at 2,000 rpm (also available with 115 hp in some countries). The most powerful engine in the range will be a 2.0 liter petrol engine that develops 142 hp at 6,000 rpm and 186 Nm (137-lbs/ft) of torque at 4,600 rpm.

The car will be 4,105 mm long, 2,550 mm wide and 1,610 mm tall, but Gregory Guillaume, Chief Designer, Kia Motors Europe, said that “drivers and passengers will be treated to a very unique experience when sitting inside the Soul for the first time. The tall doors and high-mounted seats make for easy access, while the ‘laid-back’ dashboard design, triple dial instrument cluster and thick-rimmed steering wheel create a combination of spaciousness for passengers and tailored fit for the driver, generating a very special ambience.”

The Kia Soul will be assembled at the Kia Gwangju plant in Korea from this November and global sales will start next February. Check out more photos after the jump. Read More: “New photos and details on the new Kia Soul”

Rumours have started to float around regarding one Ferrari’s most powerful models, the 430 Scuderia, and that a Spider, convertible version is going to be launched. Irony would be the name of the game, italian engineers working very hard to shave of the extra kilograms from the car, by removing luxuries like radio and sacrificing the interior, only to “fatten up” the model again, by adding further bracing and support due to the rigidity lost by removing the roof out of the car.

The presumed F430 Scuderia Spider will be made in a limited run of 300 cars, available for the top customers of the manufacturer, and is sure to attract quite a few clients, who want to have a thoroughbred Italian stallion in their garage, and of course to be seen driving it with the top down. Until the presumed official launch at the Ferrari Challenge at Mugello in November, all we’re left to do is admire the current version of the F430 Scuderia in this video.

Read More: “Ferrari to unveill Spider version of the F430 Scuderia?”

What you see in the video below is what’s left of a beautiful green Lamborghini Murcielago. The crash took place Woodland Hills, Los Angeles’ district. The 30 year old driver, whose identity hasn’t been revealed, was seen speeding west on the Ventura Freeway west of Topanga Canyon Boulevard just before the incident when he lost control of the car, hit a guardrail on the 101 freeway and crashed into a parking structure. The car burst into flames and the driver suffered severe burns and was pronounced dead at the scene.

The cause of the accident is not yet known, but it really doesn’t matter, a man lost his life. This should be another warning for everyone that drives a high performance car, no matter what brand or how much it costs. Always think twice before hitting the gas pedal!

Introduced in 1999, the Audi A2 was never a success for the German company so the model was discontinued in 2005. When the A2 production ended, Audi announced that its replacement, the Audi A1, will be unveiled in 2009. However, according to Car Magazine, the A2 will be reintroduced and will benefit from an electric package. If this rumors are true, the A2 will be built as a lightweight aluminum spaceframe (ASF) city car adapted for battery operation. And that’s not all. Though the development will be very expensive and the platform won’t be shared throughout the VW Group, its basic underlying concept might be flexible enought to be the starting point of a Porsche electric powered part.

Read More: “Audi to bring back the A2 as electric powered car”

Yesterday morning, the Top Gear team, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May, drove along the Tower Bridge in London, not in some extravagant supercars, but in none other that a tank. While some people would have immediately join the ad-hoc revolution, following Jeremy to the Parliament, it was sadly all part of a publicity stunt for the 2009 MPH show which will also host Top Gear Live, which will kick off in October.

The “small” stunt really drew the crowds attention onto the Top Gear Live show, which will consist in the guys performing live test drives of the hottest supercars out there, next to amazing explosions and other stunts planned out for the event. Toss in some appearances from The Stig, and the recipe for a complete show is made. Plus, the waiting list for the regular Top Gear stretches out for about 21 years, so why don’t you take advantage of this opportunity and be part of the audience for this show. Until then all we can do is wait for October, and indulge ourselves in the photos from this publicity stunt, enjoy! Read More: “Top Gear takes over London, promotes MPH show and Top Gear Live”

It’s been almost a year since the auto world was stunned when legendary rally driver Colin McRae died in a helicopter accident, with three more persons including his 4 year old son. To honor him, approximately 1100 Subaru cars gathered in front of Colin’s residence in Scotland on Saturday August 30. The convoy, that stretched 30 miles drove for nine hours (300 miles) to Prodrive’s headquarters in Banbury, with thousands of fans cheering along the way. “Literally every bridge had people waving and cheering us along with many hanging the Saltire from the railings.” said Grant Hendry, who led the McRae Gathering convoy. “It turned what was an already memorable event into a truly amazing and emotional occasion.”

After that, on Sunday morning, the 1086 Subaru’s, led by Colin McRae’s original 1996 Impreza rally car syncronized and formed a sign almost half a mile long that spelled out COLIN MCRAE along with the Scottish flag. The event, besides raising nearly £40,000 for the McRae charities, broke two Guiness World Records, one for the largest sign made out of cars and the second for the largest parade of cars.

Check out more photos after the jump. Read More: “Almost 1,100 Subaru’s honored Colin McRae”