Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Auto-Future 2008: The awards edition

Car of the Year: Toyota iQ
As usual, writing about the future makes one give awards in advance. For example, in 2007 the Concept Car of the Year was chosen in January. And the Car of the Year 2010 is already decided as long as the people that will build it are still in business by then… This year the Car of the Year award was chosen in March and it was the Toyota iQ. You can go back and read about it

The diminutive Toyota is usually compared with the Smart, but the 2-seater from Mercedes looks like a plastic toy in this comparison. Whether is space, build quality, passive safety but mainly active safety, the Toyota is a far superior machine. Just go test-drive the two cars in the same day and you will see a huge difference. But then the Toyota is quite a pricey thing… actually this is one of the interesting bits of the iQ: in the small car class it’s a premium product… will Toyota make good sales at this price (about 13000€ in Europe)?...

But the main interesting features of the iQ are technical: it presents the biggest evolution in FWD platforms since the sandwich architecture of the Mercedes A-class. Several technical advances make for a radically efficient use of space and some of these features will migrate to future cars from Toyota. And there is more: this car is being rumoured as candidate for electrification in the future. It’s all good things about this Toyota.

There is also a small but important thing about this car. It has something that is important to achieve success in Europe but that Toyota usually fails to have in its cars. Since it is Christmas time here is a little gift for Toyota: if you drop me an email asking I will tell you what it is.

Concept Car of the Year: Citroen Hypnos
The Citroen Hypnos was frequently referred in the articles about the “New Crossover” and for good reasons: it’s the best design interpretation of the New Crossover philosophy and it also presents a rather elegant technical implementation of a AWD plug-in hybrid architecture.

But will Citroen make it?... or at least something similar?

Pathetic Joke of the Year: Seat Exeo
Surprise, it’s not a Chrysler! I remember writing a couple of articles on this car more than a year ago when it was rumoured to be in development based on the Audi A4 B8 platform. At the time it looked like a good idea for “platform recycling” and it could provide for a Seat with Quattro AWD system and possibly reborn the great RS4. But it didn’t quite turn out like that…

I lost interest when started to hear that it was just a nose-job/butt-job. And for now there is nothing of the good stuff from the old A4 whether it was the AWD system or at least some V6 engines. And even the photo-perceived quality of the interiors is damaged with the Seat symbol in the steering wheel and some small details like the rubber in the doors.

But the worst thing about the car is the design and the sort of recycled look of it. Who will buy this car? It’s so poor-looking, as in really un-wealthy poor besides being ugly. What is the motivation for people to buy this thing? Do they realize this is a 4-star car in the EuroNCAP crash tests? But a weak 4-star. And the space inside is actually worse than in a Seat Altea XL.

There is also a twisted feature about this car: it actually devalues the Audi brand. People in this industry are well aware of what Audis really are underneath the sporty sheetmetal and those interiors made to look really good in the images. But it has never been so obvious for the general public the sharing of parts with other cheaper brands like Seat or Skoda.

In the end this car brings an innovation and it will be famous for it. The interested reader must be familiar with the expression “badge engineering”. Well, this car introduces “badge engineering” only without the “engineering” part.

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