SIX YEARS, Lucire has named its favourite cars. The
Car to Be Seen in is a subjective look at what car makes
its driver and passengers look great, based on fashion trends and
the mood of the moment.
Last years principle of attainable
desirability still saw the Mercedes-Benz SLK
voted, and premium brands have featured largely in the annual awards
since they began in 2000: the Audi A4 Avant, Audi A4 Cabriolet and
Aston Martin DB9 have scooped the
top prize in earlier times.
However, Car to Be Seen in also shows
that high price or a fancy brand is no guarantee of success. Peugeot
has won the prize once, for its 307 CC
Voting takes place among Lucires
international team, giving a fair cross-section of opinion. Most
car awards are single-country or single-region ones; Lucires
is international, with editors and correspodents from Europe, the
United States and New Zealand taking part.
This years finalists are a mixed bag.
They range from cars designed to mobilize the masses, such as Peugeots
107 and Dacias Logan. We like their noble aims, especially
the Dacia, which brings relatively new technology to a booming middle
class. In the past, many of these second-world nations had to make
do with cast-offs, with the exception of Volkswagens Gol and
Fiats Palio in Brazil.
But the fancy makes are still there: the Aston
Martin V8 Vantage and Jaguar XK8 both
show British panache, while SUVs still,
despite the high prices of petrol, figure among the finalists as
stylish ways to travel. (Interestingly, the 2001 winner, the Audi
A4 Avant, was considered a suitable anti-SUV,
with Lucire then forecasting petrol price rises.)
Herewith are our choices, with the winner to
be announced in the New Year.
Alfa Romeo 159 Developed in conjunction with General Motors,
the Alfa 159 has engines that are not unlike the Holden Commodores,
but with enough Alfissimo to make it its own. Plenty of brio in
the power, handling and noise, its the sexiest sedan available
today. Designed by none other than the Italian master Giugiaro.
Ford Motor Co.
Aston Martin V8 Vantage Henrik Fiskers small Aston
Martin deals to the Porsche 911 in the way the British marque knows
best: an engine up front, driving the rear wheels, with an emphasis
on great handling. The smaller window area compared to the DB9
makes the V8 look more like a missile, and its angles give it a
sense of the space-age.
Jaguar XK8 The sexiest new Jaguar since the E-type, the XK8, designed by Scot Ian Callum,
looks right at every angle. Theres also a more boulevardy
convertible model for the LA set.
Need we say more? Its bonkers beautiful, modern, yet doesnt
sacrifice a single piece of the Jaguar tradition.
Honda Motor Co.
Honda Civic This is the most futuristic of all hatchbacks.
Its roomy, has a sporty line, and even the glass grille is
funky. The interior is a huge leap forward in its design and layout.
Pity the publicity photos always shows this grey tonethe real
car has everything going for it and should scare plenty of Focus,
Golf, Corolla and Mégane owners.
Citroën C6 The big French motor is back. Citroëns DS was a favourite of President de
Gaulle, but since the demise of the XM,
the quirky French brand has lacked an entrant in the large car class.
That changed when the C6, previewed as a show car in the 1990s,
reached production. Cool trick: the lane-departure warning system.
Peugeot 107 Priced at €7,000,
the 107 is built alongside an equivalent Citroën and Toyota
in the Czech Republic. The idea is to produce an affordable car,
and there are fewer bits to go wrong. The tailgate is a single piece,
and the front bucket seats are identical. With petrol prices where
they are, this makes sense. Never mind the conscientious aspects:
the Pug still looks funky and cute. Dare we say classless?
Porsche Carrera 4 A variation on the 911 theme, but with
four-wheel drive and unbelievable grip. We already love the 997
in its base form, but this is a higher form of motoring nirvana.
Dacia Logan Costing €5,500,
the Dacia Logan is not a cast-off Renault like its predecessor.
Renault boss Louis Schweitzer insisted that the company created
a car that had the benefits of current technology, but was produced
cheaply enough so middle classes in Iran, Romania, China and other
countries could afford it. Interestingly, its still tidy and
Renault Clio III The third generation of Clio looks smoother,
drives and rides better, and is better built than its predecessor.
The Europeans have already named it their Car of the Year, but our
criteria are different. How good do you look behind the wheel? Is
it in fashion? It may well be, with its swish lines, cute front
headlamps and strong style.
Audi Q7 Audi is late getting on board the SUV
brigade, but it has done so using Porsche Cayenne bits and claims
its sporty, too. It certainly looks less incongruous, and
the big grille works on this shape. Expect sportiness and ruggedness
combined with the high Audi build quality.
There were a few cars that didnt quite make it into our shortlist.
Weve listed them below, since they do deserve your consideration.
Mercedes G-Wagen Once upon a time, the G was the military
Merc, built by SteyrDaimlerPuch. Now, coming out of
Alabama, the boxy G is Mercs answer to heavy-duty competition
such as the Volkswagen Touareg. Meant to be a go-anywhere four-wheel-drive
vehicle, the G looks like its built to last.
Mercedes R-class The R-class is one of three Mercedes four-wheel-drive
wagons from its Alabama plant. We like the two wheelbase offerings,
the S-class-like size, and the luxury inside. We remain nervous
about the Mercedes-Benz build quality these days, but the style
looks about right to us. Its unmistakably a Merc.
Fiat Grande Punto Fiat is right to put the word Grande
in there, for the Punto cannot be regarded as a supermini any more.
The growth in size means a quieter, more competent car, but there
are still some equipment omissions compared to cars like the Renault
Clio. Still, the Clio doesnt have a front end that looks like
Ford Motor Co.
Ford Galaxy This is the largest Ford passenger car in Europe,
built alongside the Mondeo at Genk, Belgium. Its big enough
for both families and VIPs, but what
we really like is the sporty lines. Galaxy is a minivan that has
a bit of sexiness to it. It mightnt be a Seat Altea, but at
least it looks nothing like the rest of the range.
Ford Mustang Convertible The grand American tradition continues.
Mechnically similar to the coupéwhich means it relies
more on brutality than sophisticationthe Convertible looks
better without the clumsy roof of its basis. Its very 1968
in style, and theres nothing wrong with that. Gutsier than
the old one.
Ford Territory Nominated last year, we still love the Terri,
particularly with a six-speed gearbox. It remains one of the most
practical, and attractive, SUVs out
Volvo C70 Volvo takes the Focus platform and spins off a
convertible. The C70 has the trademark look with its haunches and
grille, but since the old S60 got us used to the coupé profile,
this car has to impress us with its folding metal top. Its
still clever in that the Volvo still seats four, which a lot of
these coupécabriolets dont.
General Motors Corp.
Opel Tigra Twin Top The sexiest Opel since the GTthats
how we put it in 2004. We stick by that and almost nominated it
a second time.
Opel Astra GTC If they ever remade The Professionals,
we think Bodie and Doyle would drive these. Sporty, masculine, and
with that Panorama roof, a babe magnet. The question is whether
the GTC is unisex.
Opel Astra Twin Top Not as cute as the Tigra Twin Top, the
bigger Astra still has a similar party trick of a folding metal
top. Its more everyday now, and these folding
hardtop cars feature regularly in our competition. Advantages: cuteness,
a pretty good chassis and great build quality. Also, plenty of mechanical
bits are available cheaply, since underneath it all is a regular
Volkswagen Eos A Golf without its roof. Its different
from the Golf and Jetta in style, but shares its party trick with
two other nominees: a folding metal roof. Solid, thanks to VW
You have got to be kidding me
As with every year, there are those that wont be touched
by our team. In fact, if you see these cars, run the other way.
They will make you look bad and if you have already got one of these,
for Gods sake install tinted windows.
Fiat Doblò Another ugly van, but cheap, thanks to
Turkish manufacture. The facelift has helped, but it is still one
of the least attractive cars to come out of Italy.
Fiat Croma Again, from Giugiaro, who is a genius. And given
what it is, he has clothed it well, but it smells a bit of Euroblandness.
The Cromabasically a station wagon version of the Opel Vectra
that happens to be made in Torinofills a market niche that
we dispute even exists. Watch out for the depreciation.
Ford Motor Co.
Ford Focus Not the Mk II model on sale in most of the world.
The Americans are forced to persist with the old model. Watch it
get trounced this year by the new Honda Civic.
Lincoln Zephyr Remember the Ford Telstar? Or the
Cadillac Cimarron? The Zephyr is the same idea: its a Mazda
6 (good start) with a party frock. The problem is that the frock
doesnt look too different from lesser Fords. What happened
to Ford saying future Mercurys and Lincolns would look distinct?
General Motors Corp.
Chevrolet Malibu This is an Opel Vectra that looks worsefussy
styling, especially up front, hides a generally competent chassis.
Daewoo Lacetti Looks nothing like a Holden, but
its expected to be one in Australia and New Zealand. A backward
step from the Opel Astra Classic, which it replaces in the line-up
there, and far worse. We dont care if Giugiaro did the exterior.
Anyone say Allegro? Similar criticisms for the Daewoo Kalos-based
Saab 9-2X A Subaru Impreza with a new grille. Doesnt
fool the educated American buyer who wants a European car.
Ssangyong Rodius We thought the name was a combination of rodent and odius, this minivan may be cheap, but from
its tongue-shaped grille to its Greyhound-bus rear, it appears to
have been designed by people who not only hated each other, but
hated the human race.
Toyota Motor Co.
Toyota Avalon Mk III Thank God the Australian-built model
will go to the scrapyard in the sky, and the Aussies should then
catch up with the rest of the world. American and Japanese readers
need to realize that this Avalon is two generations oldthe
one based on the 1995 Camry. Outmoded and regularly hated by Lucire
since it was launched after it was taken off the market in
the United States after the 1999 model year.