NOTHING to do with fashion and everything to do with fashion.
For the last four years, Lucire has been presenting its Car
to Be Seen in award. We dont pretend to be motoring
journalists. Our CSI is
based solely on how stylish a car is, based on what we feel is the
mood of the coming year.
At the end of the year, we shortlist the cars
that we feel would suit the well travelled girl of Lucire.
Previous winnersthe Audi A4 Avant, the Audi
A4 Cabriolet, the Peugeot 307 CC and
the Aston Martin DB9have been
voted by the editors of Lucire. Usually, attainable desirability
is one of the main criteria, but the Aston was just too nice to
But this year hasnt been a golden year for
new cars as the big manufacturers feel the pinch. Show cars at the
motor shows have all been warmed-over production models. Other new
releases have been customer-clinicked to death, so there arent
many risks being taken.
This years nominees, with the winner announced
in the print issue of Lucire, follow.
The A-class grows up. The new Mercedes appears more solid, more
reflective of traditional Merc values, while recognizing that yonger
buyers do want a sporty hatch, too. Hence the three-door, 2·2
litre model and the possibility of an AMG
version. Last time, it was just a little too toy-like.
The last model suggested to the world that you were the mistress
of a footballer or some nouveau riche. This time, it looks
better because its more macho, but we are not sure if the
McLaren-inspired front grille works. Feature to talk about over
lunch: the Airscarf, a fan system that keeps your neck warm when
the hardtops down.
This Lancia may score a few points over its Fiat Idea twin. The
Musa is another one of the tall hatchbacks that are suddenly in
vogue in Europe. Fiats are a tad common, but Lancia seems to retain
an air of exclusivity, even if it is a subcompact.
Ford Motor Company
Ford Focus Mk II
Fords most important car in years. An initial glance says
that its an evolution of the old model, but socially, the
Focus Mk II means a lot, lot more. First, it marks an end to Fords
Volkswagen fixation (which made the Mondeo look like a Passat and
the Five Hundred like an Audi A6). Second, its Fords
attempt to inject desirability into its range. The top model is
called the Focus Titanium, meaning Ford is taking cues from the
fashion businessnamely Silhouette sunglasses. Quality is job
one, as they say at Ford, and the new Focus leads the Golf on the
inside as well as in the driving experience. Get one now before
they are driven by reps. A hardtop convertible follows in 20056.
The retro Mustang is just, well, lovable. We are usually against
retro shapes, but we keep nominating the Ford Thunderbird and, this
year, the Mustang. Based on the look of the 1968s, it is an acceptable
move forward into 2005, and the interior is just a delight to stare
at, with its recessed round dials that are very tradbut cool.
Down side: its not sophisticated, but for the boy-racing types
and poseurs, it wont matter.
We wanted to dislike this car. We really did. In late 1999, when
Ford began developing it, we forecast an SUV
backlash. But after having our Amber Peebles drive it and extol
its virtues, we thought again. You can take it to town and have
valets demand they park it for you at the Sky Tower. And you can
take it (gently) off-road with its big tyres. Inside is where this
car counts: it feels tiny to manuvre, and its so easy
to drive with the sequential gearbox. Adjustable drinks holders,
theatre seating (with each rearward row higher than the one preceding
it), DVD player and even a place to
put your handbag. Amazing that Ford has managed to start the pricing
at under A$40,000. We think it is
Australian motoring history in the making, finally ridding the countrys
reliance on sedans and station wagons.
Opel Astra GTC Panorama
With the Panorama option, the new Astra GTC
gets the biggest windscreen out there. Its a single piece
of glass that extends into the roof, making the GTC
cockpit more like that of a plane. Down side is that it is based
on the old Astras platform, but Opel has upgraded it majorly
to keep it Golf-beating. Sexy looks and just different enough from
the standard Astra hatch.
Opel Tigra Twin Top
Opels best year in decades, and of the new range, the Tigra
is the best looking car the Rüsselheimers have made since the
GT. The Twin Top may be based on an
Opel Corsathats Holden Barina to those at head officebut
that means reliable bits, a cheap price, and its easy to park.
Clothe it with a sexy bodyshell and a folding hardtop, it looks
readier for the kill than its main rival, the Peugeot 206 CC.
Top-notch quality, too, like all modern Opels. Importantly, it doesnt
matter if youre rich or poor, female or maleyou still
look good in it. Even the basic models work with you.
Koenigsegg CC8S and CCR
If you are in the market for a Ferrari eater, then the Koenigsegg,
with the design improved by our friend Joachim
Nordwall, is the last word right now. They are rare and so darned
good value for money. Drivers wont look as though they are
copying those who opted to go southern European; plus this Swedish
sports car looks better than anything that Ferrari or Bugatti are
coming out with. The CCR has made
it into The Guinness Book of Records as the most powerful
production car in the world. Christian von Koenigsegg, whom Lucire
spoke to, is a nice guy, too, and you can still visit the factory
and meet the man who created the car. Get yourself a trip to southern
Sweden in the process. Its the second year this car has been
Citroën finally replaces the GS.
For those who dont know, the old GS
was the compact car of the future when it came out in the early
1970s, but all its successorsthe BX,
ZX and Xsaraall fell short of
the original cars inspirational approach. Theres one
of the sexiest interiors with built-in air freshener (you can choose
a fragrance), a Lane Departure Warning System in the computerized
bits, but outside, the three-door model does look a bit like the
1995 Ford Laser Lynx from the back. But thats the one were
nominating, just because it is something more specialbut is
having air freshener a genuine advance in the history of the automobile?
The evergreen 911 returns, and we love the little details on this
car. Like the rear bumper. Its a small touch, but the way
the nips and tucks have been done help update the 911 shape, making
it current for four more years (or longer).
European journos have already voted this their Car of the Year,
but will it fare differently on style stakes? Top marks for the
hybrid engine, and how Toyota has made the system even more efficient
than on the Prius Mk I. Theres a nice cabin design. This car
will do wonders for the environment, but the down side is that the
look at me Hollywood set has adopted it to show how
much they care about being green. It comes off a bit fake as a result,
and theres a sudden wannabe factor with the Prius. Nominated
last year, too.
Audis new A6 was profiled in Lucires November
2004 issue. As we said, the grille doesnt shock us as much
as weve become accustomed to it; and a bunch of Europeans
have voted it their most beautiful car. Its aggressive and
luxurious at the same time, not always an easy balance to achieve.
And, like so many Fords, it looks like a proper Audi A6. A big sedan
with a lot of toys.
Read the February 2005 print issue of Lucire (out January
24) to see which car is our Car to Be Seen in for 2005.
The well travelled girl
The Lucire well travelled girl (WTG)
is a woman who is cosmopolitan, who sees the world as being within
her grasp, and has a sense of style and responsibility. When we
vote for the Car to Be Seen in, we are mindful of that. What
would look good for her, and work with her lifestyle, so she stays
in style through 2005?
The BMW 1-series is missing because we are still wondering
whether these cars have any style. Sure, the bits are well
put together. But the exterior design: take a 2000 Nissan
Almera, stretch the front, and make some cuts in the shape
like Triumph did with the TR7
and see what results. Besides, if the 3-series is as common
as muck now, we hate to think where the Einser will
Another missing débutante is the
Peugeot 1007nice idea, but the door handles are
the size of Dumbos ears.
We also werent impressed with the
Smart ForFour, which tries too hard and is no better
than its cheaper Mitsubishi Colt sister car. Style should
be effortless and multi-coloured panels are anything but.
The Mercedes-Benz CLS four-door coupé
shows that imagination is not lacking in Stuttgart, but it
looks too much from some angles like the 1999 Ford Falcon,
right down to the shape of the rear lights and boot. People
do turn their heads when this car is parked, but we see the
shape dating awfully, as Volvo saw with its P1800 in the 1960s.
Same story for the Seat Toledo: clever,
daring (for the niche), but it already looks a bit dated even
though it hasnt been on sale for a year.
The Seat Altea is a better example
of sports car meets MPV, but
it wasnt quite sporty enough compared to the prototype
to grab our attention.
The Renault Modus was originally
short-listed till we began really looking at its shape: it
just didnt seem new enough. We had the same problem
with the Volkswagen Golf Plus, which we wanted to nominate
for starting a new market niche.
The Dacia Logan almost was nominated.
Its a noble effort, but it fails where the Chrysler
PT Cruiser once did not: its
not classless. Even ignoring its sub-€5,000
asking price, it still tells the world youre poor. If it were
a cute hatchback, we might change our mind, but apparently emerging economies like Red China like four-door sedans.
The Honda FR-V was considered but
the Fiat Multipla was there first with a three-abreast six-seater
MPV, and did it with more originality.
We still love the Ford Thunderbird
but for news that its going to be cancelled soon. We
mourn its passing. Also at Ford, the Volvo XC90 continues
to stun, just not quite as much as when we nominated it in
2003. The Volvo S40 would have made it inwe love
the pertness of the designbut one of our European design
critics felt it was too much of a scaled-down S80.
Finally, the Land Rover Discovery 3 (below)
is a stunning design in every way, but we wonder if SUVs
this bigbigger than the Ford Territory, that isare
still relevant today. The chunky detailing is fine, but is
it a Car to Be Seen in? We actually love this vehicle but
its the road-tough accessories such as the plastic around
the wheelarches that seem out of place for this competition,
while the black A and B pillars suggest the early 1980s to
The Car Not to Be Seen in
Ssangyong has come up with the worst-looking new vehicle
of 2004: the Rodius (rodent plus odius?)
or Stavic minivan. No matter how cheap Korean labour
makes this vehicle, or how good the Mercedes-Benz engine might
be, only the tasteless will buy it (above).
The Ssangyong displaces the Toyota Avalon
Mk III (Australia) from the top of our worst list. The
Aussie designers have grafted on nicely styled front and rear
sections, but pity the middle still looks like a stretched
Our rental experiences with a Corolla
were pretty poor in 2004the interior is greyer than
the smog over Osaka, while the Camry itself is not
a car youd die for (just as Bronson Pinchot said in
Beverly Hills Cop III). Lovemark? We think not.
Lexuss SC 430, a.k.a.
the Toyota Soarer, is dynamically deficient compared
to many rivals and it looks bloated.
Pensionable designs such as the Rover
45 and most of the Mitsubishi-inherited Proton
range (Satria, Wira) continue to be on our list.
In fact, the Lotus Esprit has now officially long in the tooth.
New entrants into the list include Saabs
9²X (below), which is really a Subaru with
a fancy new grille thats fooling no one, least of all
the educated young buyers that Saab of America is targeting.
Pontiacs Grand Prix
still looks wrong to us, as does its new Montanathe
soccer Dad van thats also sold as the Saturn Relay,
Buick Terrazza and Chevrolet Uplander.
Pontiac also gets marks off for the Aztek,
still the ugliest car from GM.
It might have a lot of cubby holes but it didnt deserve
to look like that. Scared, GM
now makes boring-looking cars such as the Buick LaCrosse (to
our Québec friends: that is not a typo) and Pontiac
Speaking of incongruous, theres the
Mitsubishi Magna, Verada and Diamante,
for which the Olivier Boulay-penned facelift has not worked.
We have our misgivings about the Nissan
Teana. The Altima and Maxima, on the same platform, are
smart-looking, sporty cars with plenty of Shift_the
Future DNA, so why is
it so absent on Nissans large-car entry outside North