Welcome to this week’s review of last week’s happenings in the motor industry, which comes to you from a rather messy student abode in almost downtown Exeter.
We start this week with the announcement of the shortlist for the 2011 European Car of the Year award, which in 2010 was won by the Volkswagen Polo, fighting off Toyota’s IQ by a narrow margin ahead of Vauxhall’s Astra, Mercedes’ E-Class, Peugeot’s 3008 and Skoda’s Yeti. For 2011 the contenders come from the following seven automotive marques:
- Alfa Romeo Giulietta
- Citroen C3/DS3
- Dacia Duster
- Ford C-Max/Grand C-Max
- Nissan LEAF
- Opel Meriva
- Volvo S60/V60
An interesting list I’m sure you’ll agree, but the car that will stand out for most people is the battery-powered LEAF, which in its innovation is the only candidate not to be powered by old-fashioned squashed prehistoric fish. A victory for the LEAF would represent not so much a statement of its all-round superiority over everything else out there, as a nod to its status as the world’s first mass-produced electric car.
If it wins (which I doubt it will), Nissan should take it as a massive pat on the back from the industry. Were I given the casting vote, I’d have a tough job choosing between the Duster and DS3.
[European CotY is supported by seven sponsoring publications – AutoVisie, Stern, ViBilägare, L’Automobile Magazine, Autocar, Auto Italy and Autopista Spain – traditional magazines who are more than likely to choose a ‘worthy’ winner than an exciting or enjoyable drivers car. On that basis, the Nissan LEAF stands a very good chance of scooping the winning laurels – Ed]
I reckon Dacia has a huge part to play in the future of European motoring as one of the few brands without any upmarket pretentions: the simple-but-honest Duster is the embodiment of what many people are seeking from the industry, at a time when technological advances are making our cars ever more complex machines. It’s just a shame we won’t be seeing it in the UK until 2012 at the earliest.
But the DS3 would – by the width of an in-vogue LED lighting strip – get my vote. In creating its DS range, Citroen has made one of the boldest decisions in motoring since a tasty energy drink decided to dabble in Formula one. Taking on the so-called ‘premium’ brands is dicing with the fates at any time, let alone while the world is coming to terms with paying £4 million for a baguette, and it could yet fail.
But having driven the DS3 recently, I’d have one over a Mini or Fiat 500 every day of the week. It drives brilliantly; it’s a quality product (bar a few interior quibbles); but most importantly, it manages to pull off cool without resorting to Oz and James’ Guide to Retro.
But if I may go back to the theme of the Dacia Duster for a minute, because when it does eventually arrive in two years’ time, it’ll have a direct rival to defend itself against. Yes, it’s the new Ssangyong Korando crossover, set to bow in at the beginning of next year.
If the moniker seems familiar, that’ll be because Ssangyong sold a car of the same name a few years back. But rather than following its ancestor’s habit of looking like a Jeep Wrangler that has tried and failed to squeeze itself through a pair of narrowly spaced bollards, this shiny new one is endowed with some smart lines, for which it probably owes some gratitude to Italian design-house Giugiaro.
More significantly, though, the Korando marks Ssangyong’s return from the brink of oblivion. A matter of months ago, the Korean brand was in grave danger of going the same way as Hummer, Saturn, and now Pontiac (more on which shortly). But having been fished from the sea of financial doom, or ‘administration’ as it’s officially known, by the catchily named Indian company Mahindra & Mahindra, its future now looks a little more secure.
Whether the coming years will be profitable for Ssangyong in this country remains to be seen, but it’s likely that much will depend on the pricing of the Korando. Given that its main competition will be the circa-£13k Duster, it ought to cost a similar amount.
While Ssangyong might be celebrating, this week saw two richly historic motoring names return to the dust from whence they came. And while the death of Pontiac might not be cause for much mourning on this side of the pond, the end of the line for Lamborghini Murciélago production will certainly lead to a few tears being shed.
In years to come, the Murciélago should be remembered as one of the all-time great Lambos; for starters, it was a shot in the arm (and then some) for the company, which had stagnated somewhat in the eleven years since the birth of the flawed Diablo. It was the first Lambo to be created entirely under the stewardship of Audi, and as a result had an interior which rose far above the Little Tykes-style interior quality of its predecessors.
The Murciélago was also the car that, in the eyes of many (including yours truly), brought supercar styling into the 21st century with its simple but jaw-dropping shape. But its biggest achievement surely came in the form of it being available in orange, a hue which has since made the transition onto more mainstream Audi products like the S3.
As for Pontiac, it’s a shame that the company which brought us such iconic names as GTO and Firebird – as well as the, ahem, drop-dead gorgeous Aztek – should be the latest victim of what shall soon be known as the Great GM Restructuring of 2010, but in fairness it had it coming.
Its stuttering journey through the last decade has been mainly characterised by rebadged Holden Monaros and Chevrolet Equinoxes, and Pontiac was eventually left, confused and imageless, as more of a hindrance than a help to GM’s survival plans. It won’t be missed by many.
Anyway, that’s enough doom and gloom for this week. BMW has some news which will have fans of floaty bodywork rejoicing in the streets: production of the EfficientDynamics supercar has been given the go-ahead, with sales expected to begin in 2013.
Based on the Vision EfficientDynamics concept which we saw at last year’s Frankfurt motor show, the 2+2 will be propelled by a combination of electric motor wizardry and a three-cylinder diesel engine which will sip fuel with camel-esque restraint.
Fuel economy is tipped to reach 75mpg, while that oh-so-convenient figure of 99g/km of CO2 will be emitted from the tailpipes. With numbers of such frugality, a claimed 0-62 time of 4.8 seconds seems a little far-fetched – or it would do were it not for the wonders Munich has already worked on the 320d.
Trust me, the ED could quite easily turn out to be the most exciting car to be launched over the next five years. You heard it here first.
Finally, Autocar broke the news on Friday that American electric car specialist Tesla is planning to flog its cars through Apple-style stores in order to raise its profile among buyers and help sell its forthcoming Model S saloon. Cue masses of space in which to perambulate slowly an leisurely, rows of Roadsters sitting miles apart on spotless white tables, and regular utterances of “Just browsing, thanks.”