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Lucire LivingLucire 2005: Car to Be Seen in 2006

It’s another year, and Lucire shortlists its Cars to Be Seen in for the sixth time

Initial capOR 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 year’s 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 convertibles.

Voting takes place among Lucire’s international team, giving a fair cross-section of opinion. Most car awards are single-country or single-region ones; Lucire’s is international, with editors and correspodents from Europe, the United States and New Zealand taking part.

This year’s finalists are a mixed bag. They range from cars designed to mobilize the masses, such as Peugeot’s 107 and Dacia’s 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 Volkswagen’s Gol and Fiat’s 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.


Fiat SpA

Alfa Romeo 159 Developed in conjunction with General Motors, the Alfa 159 has engines that are not unlike the Holden Commodore’s, but with enough Alfissimo to make it its own. Plenty of brio in the power, handling and noise, it’s the sexiest sedan available today. Designed by none other than the Italian master Giugiaro.


Ford Motor Co.

Aston Martin V8 Vantage Henrik Fisker’s 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. There’s also a more boulevardy convertible model for the LA set. Need we say more? It’s bonkers beautiful, modern, yet doesn’t sacrifice a single piece of the Jaguar tradition.


Honda Motor Co.

Honda Civic This is the most futuristic of all hatchbacks. It’s 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 tone—the real car has everything going for it and should scare plenty of Focus, Golf, Corolla and Mégane owners.


Peugeot SA

Citroën C6 The big French motor is back. Citroën’s 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 AG

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, it’s still tidy and chunky.


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.


Volkswagen AG

Audi Q7 Audi is late getting on board the SUV brigade, but it has done so using Porsche Cayenne bits and claims it’s 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.



Honourable mentions

There were a few cars that didn’t quite make it into our shortlist. We’ve listed them below, since they do deserve your consideration.


DaimlerChrysler AG

Mercedes G-Wagen Once upon a time, the G was the military Merc, built by Steyr–Daimler–Puch. Now, coming out of Alabama, the boxy G is Merc’s answer to heavy-duty competition such as the Volkswagen Touareg. Meant to be a go-anywhere four-wheel-drive vehicle, the G looks like it’s 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. It’s unmistakably a Merc.


Fiat SpA

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 doesn’t have a front end that looks like a Maserati’s.


Ford Motor Co.

Ford Galaxy This is the largest Ford passenger car in Europe, built alongside the Mondeo at Genk, Belgium. It’s 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 mightn’t 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 coupé—which means it relies more on brutality than sophistication—the Convertible looks better without the clumsy roof of its basis. It’s very 1968 in style, and there’s 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 there.


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. It’s still clever in that the Volvo still seats four, which a lot of these coupé–cabriolets don’t.


General Motors Corp.

Opel Tigra Twin Top The sexiest Opel since the GT—that’s 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. It’s 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 Astra.


Volkswagen AG

Volkswagen Eos A Golf without its roof. It’s 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 assembly.



You have got to be kidding me

As with every year, there are those that won’t 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 God’s sake install tinted windows.


Fiat SpA

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 Croma—basically a station wagon version of the Opel Vectra that happens to be made in Torino—fills 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: it’s a Mazda 6 (good start) with a party frock. The problem is that the frock doesn’t 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 worse—fussy styling, especially up front, hides a generally competent chassis.


Daewoo Lacetti Looks nothing like a Holden, but it’s 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 don’t care if Giugiaro did the exterior. Anyone say Allegro? Similar criticisms for the Daewoo Kalos-based Holden Barina.


Saab 9-2X A Subaru Impreza with a new grille. Doesn’t 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 old—the 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.



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