March 26, 2014 00:00 By Kingsley Wijayasinha
This year's event features a host of exciting models, but the star of the show is the new high-tech Mazda3. Take your pick
Looking to buy a hot new car? Or wanting to simply get up close with the most modern vehicles on display? Head over to the 35th Bangkok International Motor Show, which officially takes to the road today at Challenger Hall, Impact Muang Thong Thani, where you will see the latest cars and trucks featuring leading-edge automotive technologies.
At a time when the severe political deadlock has put a spoke in the wheel of auto sales, which have plunged by more than 40 per cent in the first two months of the year, automakers are naturally keeping their fingers crossed and hoping their latest models will help kick sales into gear.
A total of 28 automobile and nine motorcycle brands are present at the show this year, along with close to 100 car audio and accessory exhibitors.
The Bangkok Motor Show usually features a large number of concept vehicles, but this year the list has been whittled down, with just the Ford 1 (Everest) concept and the Toyota FV2 being the real highlights.
But the star at this year’s show is the new Mazda3, the award-winning compact car from the Hiroshima-based manufacturer. Both the sedan and 5-door hatchback boast Mazda’s new KODO styling concept and SkyActiv technology, resulting in dramatically improved fuel economy without performance being sacrificed. The Mazda3 also comes with the latest gadgets including head-up display, blind-spot detection, automatic cruise control and Internet connection via your smartphone, which means you can even put a “like” on Facebook posts directly from the car’s system.
Powerhouses Toyota and Honda have not launched a new model at the show this year, although their recently introduced cars include the Corolla Altis and City, both of which are expected to maintain sales momentum at the expo.
Nissan, on the other hand, has come out with a handful of new models. Although it has not launched the much-awaited X-Trail SUV, which would have definitely become a big hit with its much larger size and gimmicks, there are some interesting models on display.
My favourite at the Nissan booth is the Pulsar Turbo, which is powered by a 190hp engine with 240Nm of torque. Nissan says the Pulsar Turbo has beefed-up steering and suspension, as well as stronger braking power to match the increased engine output.
Small-car specialist Suzuki unveiled the production version of its A-Wind concept. The new model, called Celerio, takes centre stage at the Suzuki booth, and although official pricing has not yet been announced, expect prices to be in the Bt400,000 neighbourhood for this little eco-car.Ford, after launching the Fiesta 1.0 Ecoboost earlier this year, is following up with the EcoSport urban SUV, which offers an interesting package that includes “FordSync” and many other features.
All-wheel-drive specialist Subaru is highlighting its WRX, the beefed-up version of the Impreza compact car boasting over 300hp from its turbocharged 4-cylinder boxer engine. MG, meanwhile, is making its first appearance at the motor show, with a collection of MG6 cars dressed up in different styles. Sales are expected to commence during the mid-year period. There are also several minor-change models with cosmetic changes as well as increased equipment levels being unveiled at the show – such as the Honda Civic, Chevrolet Captiva, Hyundai Grand Starex and Ssangyong Korando C.
There is an equal amount of excitement in the luxury segment, with major brands such as Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Carlsson, Mercedes-Benz, Lexus, Porsche and Rolls-Royce exhibiting their vehicles.
Of course, the centre of attraction at the BMW booth is the i8 plug-in sports car, which will enter production this year, while the 2 Series and 4 Series are new models that are being officially launched.
Meanwhile, arch rival Mercedes-Benz is staging the Asean premier of its new C-Class and the GLA-Class, apart from launching two other models.
Lexus is introducing its new ES model, highlighted by the ES300h that combines luxury with eco-friendliness from its hybrid power train.
Rolls-Royce is presenting two models – the Wraith coupe and the Ghost Majestic Horse collection, the latter a limited-edition model made especially for Asian markets in celebration of the Year of the Horse.
Swedish automaker Volvo’s spotlight is on the S60 and XC60. Both feature the new Drive-E powertrain that develop 220hp and 350Nm.