Let’s start on a positive: The best car I’ve driven this year is Peugeot’s 208GTI. Fantastic fun, you think you’re a better driver than you are. And it has the sportiest interior this side of $300,000.
Now let’s sink into negatives: The worst car I’ve tried this year is Holden’s Malibu. Built in Korea by Daewoo as a Chevrolet for America it is now in Australia as a Holden. Good price, indifferent to frightful everything else.
But it will probably last longer than Opel, a German brand that figured Australians would pay a $2000 to $3000 premium for German build quality. The complication; most of its offerings were made in countries other than Germany including that epicentre of quality vehicle building, England. Opel closed its doors after less than a year.
Green vehicle of 2013: Nissan’s massive Patrol, an off roader available only with a 5.6-litre V8 and seven-speed auto. It gets 600 km between fills, but fills cost $200.
Green cars aren’t selling anyway. Remember Holden’s clever Volt, a four-seater electric with a petrol engine to top up the battery? National sales so far this year are 95. They sell more Malibus than that. And Ferraris. And Maseratis.
Speaking of Italians, now that Australian distribution has been taken in-house it has been a better year for Fiat and Alfa Romeo. The price drops have been breathtaking. The cute little Fiat 500 dropped more than $4000, Alfa’s Giulietta dropped almost $8k to less than $30,000. Alfa’s sales have doubled, Fiat’s are up by more than six times.
But watch the options list. The factory navigation in Fiat’s Punto is a Tomtom that’s mounted on a stick that slides into a dash aperture. You can buy the equivalent, without the stick, at Harvey Norman for $100. Fiat’s price is $600.
Volkswagen launched its trendy city car, the Up, by taking trendy pop-up shops in trendy city spots like Melbourne’s South Yarra and Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall, catching the attention of young and beautiful trendsetters who dwell in trendy inner-city apartments. But the default purchase of such folk is a four-cylinder Yaris and they’re obviously blind to the advantages of a three-cylinder Up. The Yaris continues to out-sell the Up eight to one.
While we’re on Volkswagen you have to admire the company’s determination. It has just brought back the Beetle for a third incarnation. The first lasted 58 years and sold more than 21 million units, the second, the New Beetle of 2000 with a rear seat that was a no-go zone for anyone with a head, sank like a stone. Now we’ve got the Even Newer Beetle with a bulbous rear roofline for more headroom. Except that it doesn’t look like a Beetle anymore.
Finally, just when you figured you knew all about Volvo drivers along comes Irv Gordon, an American who bought a P1800 in 1966 and still owns it. In fact he’s just racked up three million miles in it, or close to five million kilometres. To save you the math, that’s an average of almost 300 kilometres a day. Every day for 47 years.
Interesting bloke or what?
Rod Easdown is a freelance journalist specialising in cars and home entertainment equipment. Say hello at his website.