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Happy New gear - the cars to watch out for in 2018

By Paul Connolly

If you're in the market for a new car in 2018, then you're spoilt for choice, because the coming 12 months are set to be a bumper year for innovative models.

There's a veritable avalanche of new cars and the range of powerplants and on-board technology is growing at an ever-increasing pace.

From efficient engines to wi-fi connectivity and semi-autonomous driving, the level of ground-breaking new kit and gear is astonishing.

It's a crowded and impressive field, but here's 10 of our best for 2018.

FERRARI PORTOFINO

It's a convertible. It's a hardtop coupé. It's a performance car that sets off like a scalded cat. Ferrari's 'entry-level' Portofino arrives soon, with order books now open.

Lighter, more powerful and even more stunning than its predecessor, the California, the Portofino is technically a grand tourer.

It has more power - 592bhp, 40bhp more than the California - and is more aerodynamic. It also looks more aggressive and muscular.

While the same 3.9-litre turbocharged V8 engine lurks under the bonnet, new components and engine management software mean it is more capable, with a top speed in excess of 199mph, although this is electronically limited.

Pricing is still to be announced, but don't expect much change from £155,000 before extras.

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Mercedes-Benz CLSM

MERCEDES-BENZ CLS

Mercedes is counting down until the release of its CLS four-door coupe, which has five seats for the first time.

The new model - the third generation 'coupe' - shows off the firm's new design language and engines.

The CLS get a large front grille, a muscular stance and a longer, sloping coupe roofline.

There are two diesels, including a 3.0-litre, six-cylinder unit with two different output levels. Fuel efficiency officially tops out at 50mpg.

There's also a new 3.0-litre petrol engine that's linked to an electric motor to deliver some hybrid power output. Pricing has yet to be revealed. Sales are due to start in March.

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Citroen C4 Cactus

CITROEN C4 CACTUS

If you're in the market for a compact hatchback, check out the new version of Citroen's C4 Cactus.

The original car's innovative, love 'em or hate 'em feature was the airbumps. In the new version, these have been slimmed down and relocated to the bottom edges of the doors.

The other headline feature is a suspension system with progressive hydraulic cushion technology, which Citroen says creates a "magic carpet ride effect". New, two-tier headlights have been added, as well as 3D-effect rear lights.

A new engine has also been introduced to the C4 Cactus line-up. The top-of-the-range three-cylinder petrol unit develops 128bhp and 230Nm of torque and is paired with a six-speed manual gearbox.

Pricing is likely to be in the £17,000 range, with the car going on sale before the summer.

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Vauxhall's Insignia GSi model

VAUXHALL INSIGNIA GSi

Those who want a hot hatch-style approach in a saloon might want to look at the Vauxhall insignia GSi.

Termed a sports saloon, the performance model, unveiled at September's Frankfurt Motor Show, will cost from £33,375 when it lands in March.

At 160kg lighter than its predecessor, the Insignia VXR, the GSi features all-wheel drive with torque vectoring, mechatronic FlexRide chassis, Brembo four-cylinder brakes and Michelin Pilot Sport 4 tyres.

The Grand Sport saloon variant of the Insignia GSi comes with two powerplants, the fastest of which does 155mph and 0-6mph in 6.9s.

The Grand Sport variant is available from £33,375 on-the-road. There's also a Sports Tourer estate version.

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Nissan has run three prototypes of driverless Nissan Leaf cars in east London

NISSAN LEAF

All-electric cars are the future, so it would be remiss not to mention one.

The Nissan Leaf was amongst a small band of pioneers who blazed a trail for electric motoring.

They've been proved right, with almost all major manufacturers now committed to removing pure internal combustion models in the next few years and with most planning all-electric models as well as hybrids.

Range anxiety has been the biggest barrier to all-electrification, but the latest Leaf is again combating this. It will have an official range of 235 miles - some 50% more than the existing model - with a 310-mile version reportedly arriving later in the year.

The car will have advanced autonomous driving systems and an automatic e-Pedal brake. Also new is ProPILOT Park, which automatically parks the car.

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Hyundai's small SUV, the Kona

HYUNDAI KONA

The new Hyundai Kona is a good play in the increasingly important compact SUV market.

It's been available to order since November, but 2018-badged models will likely be highly prized.

Priced from £16,195, it is more than just a jacked-up i20 hatchback and represents a smart and fresh approach to the segment. Two petrol turbocharged engines are available at launch. The first is a 1.0-litre three-cylinder, unit that develops 118bhp and 172Nm of torque, taking the Kona from 0-60mph in 11.8 seconds, with a top speed of 112mph. Fuel economy is a claimed 52.3mpg with CO2 emissions of 125g/km.

The larger engine is a 1.6-litre, four-cylinder powerplant producing 175bhp and 265Nm of torque. It does 0-60 in at 7.7 seconds and has a top speed of 127mph. Emissions of 153g/km CO2 are claimed, and the car will return 42.2mpg.

Standard equipment includes 16-inch alloy wheels, LED daytime running lights and a host of safety equipment such as lane keep assist, and hill start assist.

Five trim levels are available - S, SE, Premium, Premium SE and Premium GT - all of which can be ordered in a two-colour scheme.

JAGUAR E-PACE

Jaguar's SUV goes on sale early in the new year. It's billed as a "compact performance SUV with sports car looks" - an accurate description.

The look is sleek and muscular, with short overhangs, powerful haunches and a stylish rear end.

The SUV is much more modern looking than the company's F-PACE, and a lovely touchscreen and a simple, clean dash gives a minimalist feel to its quality cabin.

All models except the entry-level E-PACE are all-wheel drive and, as you'd expect, the car comes packed with the latest kit and driver assists. There's also a good-sized boot (577 litres) and plenty of legroom in the front.

Digital connectivity is excellent, with up to four 12-volt charging points and five USB connections as well as a 4G wi-fi hotspot (sim required) that can accommodate up to eight devices.

There is a range of Ingenium petrol and diesel engines. The range, which starts from £28,500, is available to order now.

KIA STINGER GT

Kia keeps on innovating and the new Stinger rear-wheel-drive, five-seater gran turismo is another new direction for the company.

This is the first performance saloon Kia has produced, but it's a real corker. The range-topping GT S is powered by a 3.3-litre twin-turbocharged V6 that develops 365bhp and 510Nm of torque, allowing for a 0-60mph time of 4.7 seconds and a 168mph top speed.

Traditionally, the South Korean company has been a volume manufacturer, producing well-built, affordable models backed by a seven-year warranty.

However, the new Stinger is intended to be more aspirational product, designed to change people's perceptions of the brand.

It comes with a choice of three turbocharged engines, all with an eight-speed automatic gearbox, and three distinct trim lines in a five-model range priced from £31,995.

VOLKSWAGEN T-ROC

Volkswagen was amazingly late to the small SUV party, but now it's making up for lost time with the Golf-sized T-Roc.

In showrooms at the end of December, the new compact 4x4 has a line-up of eight models already.

Just added and available for order is the entry-level T-Roc S 1.0 TSI 115 PS six-speed manual, which is priced at £18,950.

Alongside this is the luxurious T-Roc SEL 2.0 TDI 150 PS 4MOTION six-speed manual. Representing the first diesel offering in the car's line-up, this model is priced at £28,345.

Expect VW's SUV blitz to deepen during the year. A smaller, Polo-sized crossover is already in the pipeline.

MAZDA MX-5 Z-SPORT

Mazda aims to bring a burst of colour to the MX-5 range in the spring with the launch of the new Z-Sport special edition.

On sale from March 1, the limited edition model will stand out because of its deep cherry red fabric hood, 17-inch black BBS wheels and free-of-charge Machine Grey Metallic paint.

Each car comes with an individually numbered Z-Sport plaque on the dash.

This model is exclusive to the UK, limited to just 300 cars and based on the 2.0-litre 160ps Sport Nav.

The £25,595 Z-Sport features a limited slip differential, Bilstein dampers and a strut brace to "ensure it has the dynamic excellence" to match its sporty exterior.

The second MX-5 to wear the Z-Sport badge, the latest car revisits a name last used on the third-generation MX-5 in 2007.

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