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September 5, 2013
Originally published in City Living
as
Car Talk
Vehicle manufacturers wise up to the demands of urban dwellers.
A3 Sportback e-tron by Audi

A3 Sportback e-tronby Audi

In the e-tron, Audi seeks to translate the look and feel of a luxury vehicle into a hybrid, plug-in electric model. It closely resembles the brand’s popular A3 and is ideal for buyers who know and love the conventional version but want something environmentally friendly for quick trips around town. A single charge will take you 90 miles, and the car reaches a top speed of 90 mph. The e-tron will be available for purchase in 2014. audiusa.com

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500e by Fiat

500eby Fiat

Like Smart cars, Fiats are practically Lilliputian—ideal for wedging into tight parking spaces. An electric version of the popular retro-inspired car is available in California as of this summer. After a four-hour-long full charge, the zero-emission vehicle travels about 87 miles. The car’s accompanying mobile app locates the nearest charging station—useful for those trips into unfamiliar territory. fiatusa.com

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V60 by Volvo

V60by Volvo

In showrooms early 2014, the new V60 sports wagon features fold-down seats for versatility. Like all of Volvo’s fleet, the V60 includes the company’s low-speed collision-avoidance technology, called City Safety. It works at speeds up to 31 mph, automatically braking the car to prevent collisions. Responding to increasing traffic congestion and the fact that most accidents occur at low speeds, the systems in 2014 models will now include cyclist detection. volvocars.com

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i3 by BMW

i3by BMW

BMW designed and developed the i3 as an electric vehicle from the ground up. It has a carbon-fiber body shell—the same material used in high-performance bicycles—that’s 1,000 pounds lighter than a steel version. The car can go up to 100 miles between charges, more than enough for the typical city driver, according to pilot-program research. Added bonus: The i3 can parallel park itself. Look for it in showrooms in early 2014. (Concept car shown.) bmwusa.com

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Smart ForTwo BoConcept Edition by Smart

Smart ForTwo BoConcept Editionby Smart

To appeal to design-savvy consumers, Smart collaborated with the Danish furniture company BoConcept to develop the ForTwo’s leather-trimmed interior. On the market in the USA in late 2013, it offers a top speed of more than 78 mph. When fully charged, its range is 76 to 90 miles. Smart’s handy mobile app alerts drivers to real-time battery status and the closest charging stations. At 8.8 feet long, it’s among the smallest cars on the market today. smartusa.com

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Fiesta by Ford

Fiestaby Ford

Catering to young urban denizens, the Fiesta incorporates technologies drivers now expect elsewhere in their lives, like smartphone connectivity and voice-recognition software. The gasoline-powered, entry-level model—branded to be “built for the digital generation”—achieves a fuel economy rating of over 40 miles per gallon. The 2014 models are on sale as of June this year. ford.com

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A3 Sportback e-tron by Audi

A3 Sportback e-tronby Audi

In the e-tron, Audi seeks to translate the look and feel of a luxury vehicle into a hybrid, plug-in electric model. It closely resembles the brand’s popular A3 and is ideal for buyers who know and love the conventional version but want something environmentally friendly for quick trips around town. A single charge will take you 90 miles, and the car reaches a top speed of 90 mph. The e-tron will be available for purchase in 2014. audiusa.com

For the first time in a century, American cities are growing faster than the suburbs surrounding them. For Sheryl Connelly, a trend forecaster at Ford, the shift foreshadows the auto industry’s future. She largely credits “young people and their appetite for an urban lifestyle” for the migration into cities. 

It takes about three years for a car to go from concept to production, so consultants like Connelly, who try to predict the preferences of future car buyers, are steeped in research about the millennials—individuals born sometime between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s. “Millennials would rather lose their wallets than their cell phones,” says Connelly, who sees technology gaining increasing importance to drivers. “In the past, a car had appeal because of horsepower, torque, and engine size. Today, cars have to perform on many more fronts—I like to think of them as toolboxes on wheels.” 
 
This year, manufacturers debuted a flurry of cars outfitted with features custom-tailored to urbanites: high-design, electric-powered models; sleek interiors inspired by contemporary furniture; smartphone apps that track a vehicle’s diagnostics; compact sizes; and even cyclist-detecting safety technology. Here we present a sampling of the latest fleet on or about to hit the market.

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