|Manufacturer||Shijiazhuang Shuanghuan Automobile Co (aka Shuanghuan)|
|Also called||Shuanghuan Bubble
Martin Motors Noble
Martin Motors Bubble
|Body and chassis|
|Body style||3-door hatchback|
|Engine||1.1 litre gasoline|
|Curb weight||875 kg|
The Shuanghuan Noble (also sold as the Shuanghuan Bubble, the Martin Motors Noble and the Martin Motors Bubble) is a 4-seater Chinese hatchback made by Shuanghuan Auto. It is sold in various European and Asian countries and has generated large controversies due to its similar styling to that of the Smart Fortwo.
The Noble uses a unibody frame based on a shortened Suzuki Alto platform. It carries the same MacPherson strut independent front suspension and a dead axle rear suspension with a Panhard stabilizing rod. The body is constructed using high tensile and ultra high tensile steel, a choice that makes the car somewhat heavy for its size at 875 kg.
The Noble has a seating capacity of four passengers. The rear seats provide enough room for two adults with plenty of space for their knees, although the low roof-line restricts headroom significantly. The rear seats can fold down to reveal a flat loading space, which otherwise is negligible. A full size spare wheel is housed under the rear seats.
Engine and transmission
The Noble is a front wheel drive car with the engine housed under the front bonnet. The engine itself is a 1.1 liter  16v DOHC version of the Suzuki Wagon-R engine with a power output rated at 68 PS (50 kW; 67 hp) at 6.000 rpm and 88 N·m (65 lb·ft) of torque at 4500 rpm. With the 5-speed manual transmission the Noble sprints from 0–100 km/h in 17.1s and reaches a top speed of 138 km/h. The engine is reported to be quite frugal using only 4.5 L/100 km. A five speed manual gearbox is offered in both standard and automated versions.
The Noble is being sold as an electric car in some US states, built by Ruff & Tuff Electric Vehicles from body shells shipped to the USA from China. The Wheego Whip as it is named in the US is able to reach speeds up to 70 miles per hour (113 km/h) but will be initially sold as a low-speed vehicle with a maximum speed of (25 miles per hour (40 km/h) until it passes crash tests by the US DoT.
North American sales
The Noble is currently being sold in by a dealership in Des Moines, Iowa, doing business as Shuanghuan Auto USA.[dead link] Shuanguan Auto Canada sells imports in different specifications in Canada. A dealership opened in British Columbia in 2004.
The car has caused numerous controversies, with Mercedes-Benz even filing a lawsuit against Shuanghuan because of the similarities with the Smart Fortwo. Mercedes-Benz also persuaded the Italian court to prohibit Martin Motors from exhibiting the Noble, called the Bubble, at the Bologna Motor Show,[dead link] but this was violated and the car was put on display. Martin demonstrated the Bubble outside the show. “We want everyone to see in real life how a four-seat front-engine front-wheel drive minicar differs from a rear-engine rear-wheel drive two-seater,” said Martin Motors spokesperson Viviana Martinelli.
In May 2009 a Greek judge ruled against Daimler and cleared the car allowing sales to begin in Greece. The judge answering to Daimler's demand to ban the Chinese vehicle from entering the Greek market said that “The impression the Noble makes on a third and informed party by its visual appearance is different to the one that is made to the same person by the Smart... It is commonly accepted that the decision over buying a new car cannot be based only on the exterior characteristics but many other technical specifications such as the power of the engine, fuel consumption, trim specification, retail price and dealers’ network.”
The ruling states that the latter party’s doings “cannot possibly misguide the public” as the German company claimed in its legal request. The judge noted the salient fact that “the plaintiff is no longer selling the specific generation of the Smart which claims to have been copied, but a different vehicle, with much different characteristics.”
The judge also accepted in whole the defendant’s argument that cars of the same segment cannot avoid a certain level of resemblance due to technical restrictions, similar purposes and goals, especially when it comes to such small cars that present a challenge to design. The ruling concludes that “there is no competition between the two companies.”
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