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Finding the Car to Be Seen in 2008Finding the Car to Be Seen in 2008

It’s that time of year again: Lucire announces its nominees for the eighth annual Car to Be Seen in

 

EARLY IN 2008, Lucire will choose its Car to Be Seen in for the year—a car that expresses the mood of the times for the woman who wants to be stylish and a step ahead of the rest. As with tradition, we run through our nominees for 2008 at the close of the year.

In 2008, we expect fuel prices to remain high, and we know that big SUVs won’t suddenly be in favour (something we’ve been saying since 2000). We know that drivers will still want something individual—but whether it’s something that they can take long out of town for the weekend or whether it’s a vehicle for the 21st-century urban life will be determined by our editors.

 


Fiat 500

The nuova 500 is a 2008 interpretation of the nuova 500—the one from the 1950s, also known as the Bambina. We love the funky interior and how well this little Fiat handles. While the Italian company has been trying to move upmarket in recent years, the 500 shows that it is still a master of the supermini and subcompact car. Already the European Car of the Year.

 


Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione

Inspired by the 33 Stradale of the late 1960s, this Alfa shows that the Milanese firm still has the special sauce when it comes to sport cars. The winner of Car Design News’s best production design of 2006 in February 2007.

 


Ford Mondeo

The new CD345 Mondeo is brimming with goodies that normally are seen on a car twice the price, including an inventive hillstart feature that prevents it slipping back. The computer is easy to use. The quality is right up there with other German cars. And being a great Ford that can knock the socks off Camry and Accord, it’s not sold in the US. The S-Max and Galaxy minivans, on the same platform, are the coolest in the segment.

 


Jaguar XF

We said last year this should be the business. We were right: this is the best looking Jaguar saloon since the XJ6 in 1968. It kicks off a new Jag design language—close-coupled, pacy and futuristic—just like Jaguars used to be in their pre-British Leyland heyday. It’s tasteful with its ornamentation, it’s flashy without being over-the-top. Winner of the Autocar Design Award for 2007.

 


Volvo C30

Ford Focus-based small car is a nice tribute to the Volvo 1800 ES and the 1980s’ 480 ES, but proves cramped down the back given the tapered cabin. But it’s a good example of geometric Swedish design.

 


Audi A4

The new A4 blends Walter de’Silva’s Nuvolari concept with the packaging of a mid-sized car. Thanks to the new platform, the car looks like it has a shorter front, something that has been shown to work on the beautiful A5 and S5 coupés. It actually looks like a sporting sedan—more muscular than the Mercedes C-Klasse and BMW 3-series. The Avant model is not out yet—that’s where we’ll see how successfully this design language translates into Kombi form.

 


Audi S5

There’s something so sublime about a two-door V8 coupé that can be a cruiser as well as a bruiser. This is the car that makes a real statement, with an excellent gearbox and handling. Looks great from most angles except the rear three-quarter one, which is a tad plain.

 

 

Honourable mentions

 


Mini Clubman

This would be under consideration but for the fact the car does not convert properly to right-hand drive, despite being British-made. The excuse: BMW couldn’t move the fuel tank filler, so it is stuck with having one door on the passenger side and two on the driver’s side. We know that BMW could have made the move if it really wanted to. Failure to do so reminds us that this is not a British car, but a German car made in Britain. It does not “translate into English”.

 

Buick Enclave
Big SUVs are out of favour, but boy, this still looks great. The sweeping lines are a little Colonnade—remember Kojak’s old Buick?—but better this than the boxy Chinese Buick Lacrosse, or, for that matter, the newly facelifted Daewoo Lacetti-based Buick Excelle.

 


Holden Commodore

Can we get this with a turbodiesel? No?
   Looks great for a big car—and fortunately, the Pontiac G8 version does not look crappy, unlike the previous Australian-made Goat—but we can’t believe that GM could not forecast the fuel crisis we face in the middle of the decade when we could. So coming out without a diesel or hybrid option is short-sighted considering the company spent a billion Australian dollars on the Commodore’s development. Sold in the Middle East as the Chevrolet Lumina, making more sense there where oil is relatively cheap. Sportwagon looks beaut.

 

Opel Astra GTC Panorama
We still like it, three years on. That big piece of glass just has a sense of “21st century” modernity about it.

 

Saturn Sky
Now available as an Opel and a Daewoo, the American roadster shows that the Yanks are perfectly capable of coming up with an MX-5-beater.

 


Renault Twingo

It doesn’t quite get into the finalists, because we didn’t get as much surprise or have as much emotion as with the first Twingo.

 


Renault Laguna

Very honourable mention here, especially with the 1·5-litre fuel-sipping model that is totally in line with modern concerns about gas mileage. Starting the big-car range with a 110 PS engine that gets 5·1 l/100 km (55 mpg Imperial, 46 mpg US) and topping it with a 235 PS 3·5-litre V6 shows that the Laguna tries to be a car for everyone. Down sides: the big nose, which French cars now seem to have.

 

Tesla Roadster
So it didn’t quite get into production in 2007 as we predicted—well, it’s a safe bet that the revolutionary electric-powered car and last year’s winner will be on Californian streets in 2008. •

 

 

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Watch out for these in ’08



Volvo XC60

The Volvo XC60 cross-over blends sportiness with the functionality of a small SUV. After seeing this, we’ve forgotten about the Ford Escape and the Nissan Dualis.

 

Opel Insignia
Vectra replacement is supposedly based on the GTC Concept, which should give GM a real strong entrant in the CD-segment to challenge the Ford Mondeo and Volkswagen Passat.

 

Honda FCX
We don’t know when this futuristic fuel-cell vehicle will be out, but we hope it’s sooner rather than later. Honda paves the way to another innovation, just as it did with the Insight hybrid years before the Toyota Prius.

 

Avoid
Brilliance BS6
After how badly this Chinese car rated in Euro crash tests, it came back with improvements—but that’s still not enough to get us considering it.

 

Chrysler PT Cruiser
This is just getting too long in the tooth to be cool in 2008. The old DaimlerChrysler should have kept the Plymouth brand and the Cruiser would have fitted there—as a Chrysler, it no longer fits alongside the newer models.

 

Chrysler Sebring
We said last year that this could have looked like a scaled-down 300 and tapped into Chrysler’s cool image. A year on it still looks clumsy.

 

Jeep Patriot and Compass
We like the idea of mini-Jeeps but the front-heavy, non-Trail Rated vehicles look ill-balanced and lack any of the cool of the Land Rover Freelander or Suzuki Grand Vitara.

 

FAW Vela
Toyota Platz, Chinese-style. Rehashed car reminds us of how fortunate we are that this isn’t exported outside Communist countries.

 

Ford Focus C132
While the rest of the world has the C307 Focus, North America soldiers on with the 1990s’ model, albeit rebodied. Politics keep this alive: in recent memory, Ford’s American operation has never properly marketed foreign-designed vehicles, even those designed by its own subsidiaries. Ford says cost is involved—even though it manages to sell the C307-platform Mazda 3 at a reasonable price in the US. This is basically a reminder of why Ford is in trouble in the States: it’s outclassed by the Honda Civic, just like the old Taurus was outclassed by the Accord. History keeps repeating.

 

Lincoln MKZ
Just how is this different from the US Ford Fusion, which in turn is on the Mazda 6 platform? Once upon a time, they said Mercury would be history because they were Fords with a grille. Which makes this … a latter-day Ford Telstar.

 

Lincoln MKX
The Ford Edge looks better. We’d be less offended if this was a Mercury, but it cheapens the Lincoln name—which once was able to challenge Cadillac. Not any more.

 


Daewoo Tosca

One of the ugliest mid-sized cars out there. It’s like the whole car has been shunted backwards, as though the tracing of the body slipped just before the engineers made the tooling. As the Holden Epica, it was outclassed by the old Vectra and Toyota Camry immediately on launch. Sold in Europe and Canada as the Chevrolet Epica—the Americans are too smart to see this have a Chevy badge in case of a backlash against the brand.

 

Saab 9-5
Facelift for Saab 9-5 uglifies the vehicle no end, making it look very un-Swedish. At least the original Saab automobile—once deemed an ugly duckling—had some aerodynamic rationale behind its looks.

 

Kia Opirus
Why do the Koreans ruin their big-car designs, Hyundai excepting? Tries to look like a Mercedes and fails.

 

Peugeot 4007 and Citroën C-Crosser
We disliked these facelifted Mitsubishi Outlanders last year. We still do. Mixing France with an Axis power last time got us the Vichy régime. You’d think the French had learned.

 

Nissan Note
What happened to pure designs like the Primera, or exciting vehicles such as the Murano and Skyline? Nissan replaces its C-segment car in Europe with a box based around Renault Clio hardware. It looks worse than the Tiida or Versa, if that can be believed.

 

SMA Hysoul
Chinese-made Citroën ZX-based sedan received a single-frame grille in an effort to rip Audi off. It doesn’t work. Let’s laugh now before the Red Chinese beat us all in the auto market in 20 years’ time.

 

Ssangyong Rodius
Universally hated in styling terms, though a very practical and commodious minivan. We said it years ago: rodent plus odious gets Rodius. Called Stavic in some markets.

 

Subaru Impreza
Just as Toyota gets interesting with the Auris and Aurion, Subaru gets boring. Subaru—which has a part-Toyota shareholding these days—replaces its individualistic Impreza with a same-again hatchback. Never mind what’s under the bonnet. The clothing is a big yawn, the automotive equivalent of flannel pyjamas. (The sedan is marginally better but it’s still a dullard to look at.)

 

Suzuki SX4 Sedan
Toyota showed us how to do a small car with an extra front window with the Auris. Suzuki, in putting a boot on its SX4 off-roader (also sold as the Fiat Sedici), has created one of the oddest compact sedans ever.

 

Previous winners
2001 Audi A4 Avant

2002 Audi A4 Cabriolet

2003 Peugeot 307 CC

2004 Aston Martin DB9

2005 Mercedes-Benz SLK

2006 Aston Martin V8 Vantage

2007 Tesla Roadster



Photographic credits: manufacturers; General Motors images are under Creative Commons licence and copyrighted to GM Corp.; Audi S5 photographed by Jack Yan.

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