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Lucire 2004

We announce our nominees for our fifth annual Car to Be Seen in (CSI), to be voted on by Lucire staff


Initial capTS 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 don’t 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 winners—the Audi A4 Avant, the Audi A4 Cabriolet, the Peugeot 307 CC and the Aston Martin DB9—have been voted by the editors of Lucire. Usually, attainable desirability is one of the main criteria, but the Aston was just too nice to pass up.
   But this year hasn’t 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 aren’t many risks being taken.
   This year’s nominees, with the winner announced in the print issue of Lucire, follow.


Mercedes-Benz A-Klasse

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.

Mercedes-Benz SLK

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 it’s 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 hardtop’s down.

Fiat SpA

Lancia Musa

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

Ford’s most important car in years. An initial glance says that it’s an evolution of the old model, but socially, the Focus Mk II means a lot, lot more. First, it marks an end to Ford’s Volkswagen fixation (which made the Mondeo look like a Passat and the Five Hundred like an Audi A6). Second, it’s Ford’s attempt to inject desirability into its range. The top model is called the Focus Titanium, meaning Ford is taking cues from the fashion business—namely 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 2005–6.

Ford Mustang

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 trad—but cool. Down side: it’s not sophisticated, but for the boy-racing types and poseurs, it won’t matter.

Ford Territory

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 manœuvre, and it’s 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 country’s reliance on sedans and station wagons.

General Motors

Opel Astra GTC Panorama

With the Panorama option, the new Astra GTC gets the biggest windscreen out there. It’s 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 Astra’s 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

Opel’s 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 Corsa—that’s Holden Barina to those at head office—but that means reliable bits, a cheap price, and it’s 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 doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor, female or male—you 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 won’t 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. It’s the second year this car has been nominated.

Peugeot SA

Citroën C4 Coupé
Citroën C4

Citroën finally replaces the GS. For those who don’t know, the old GS was the compact car of the future when it came out in the early 1970s, but all its successors—the BX, ZX and Xsara—all fell short of the original car’s inspirational approach. There’s 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 that’s the one we’re nominating, just because it is something more special—but is having air freshener a genuine advance in the history of the automobile?


Porsche 911

The evergreen 911 returns, and we love the little details on this car. Like the rear bumper. It’s 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).


Toyota Prius

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. There’s 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 there’s a sudden wannabe factor with the Prius. Nominated last year, too.


Audi A6

Audi’s new A6 was profiled in Lucire’s November 2004 issue. As we said, the grille doesn’t shock us as much as we’ve become accustomed to it; and a bunch of Europeans have voted it their most beautiful car. It’s 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?

Missing out

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 be.
   Another missing débutante is the Peugeot 1007—nice idea, but the door handles are the size of Dumbo’s ears.
   We also weren’t 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 hasn’t been on sale for a year.

Commendable efforts
   The Seat Altea is a better example of sports car meets MPV, but it wasn’t 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 didn’t 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. It’s a noble effort, but it fails where the Chrysler PT Cruiser once did not: it’s not “classless”. Even ignoring its sub-5,000 asking price, it still tells the world you’re 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 it’s 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 in—we love the pertness of the design—but 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 big—bigger than the Ford Territory, that is—are still relevant today. The chunky detailing is fine, but is it a Car to Be Seen in? We actually love this vehicle but it’s 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 us.

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 1995 Camry.
    Our rental experiences with a Corolla were pretty poor in 2004—the interior is greyer than the smog over Osaka, while the Camry itself is not a car you’d die for (just as Bronson Pinchot said in Beverly Hills Cop III). Lovemark? We think not.
    Lexus’s 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 Saab’s 9²X (below), which is really a Subaru with a fancy new grille that’s fooling no one, least of all the educated young buyers that Saab of America is targeting.
   Pontiac’s Grand Prix still looks wrong to us, as does its new Montana—the soccer Dad van that’s 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 didn’t 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 G6.
   Speaking of incongruous, there’s 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 Nissan’s large-car entry outside North America?


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Lucire: fashion magazine homeLucire Fashion FeaturesLucire Living and Beauty Lucire Volante: travel, accommodation guide Lucire fashion news, bulletins and events Fashion shopping guide and directory
Lucire Community: interact with us, read letters to the editorLucire Updates' service: sign up Lucire Feedback