What A Year It Has Been (Part 1)

So, there fades and fizzles 2017, nearly gone. Au revoir and good riddance. What can I remember without cheating by using Google Memories*?

2017 Opel Insignia GS: Opel.de

Or without cheating and looking at a back issue of a car magazine? Unaided I can hesitantly say about the only stand-outs are something to do with a Toyota and an Alfa Romeo. AR launched the Stelvio this year** and many suppose it to be quite good. I haven’t seen one yet so I can’t say. I haven’t seen many Giulias either for that matter and it was launched, oh, what, two years ago.

Jaguar released images of the E-Pace and, again, one of those has not appeared anywhere near my district. Or maybe they aren’t on sale yet. Is that news? Or is it a real car? I am not sure***.

I can see as I struggle to write that this article will really deal with the frailty of memory or else the unmemorability of the year’s crop of cars. Or maybe both. It was the year I stopped buying a car magazine which must be both a symptom and a cause of the difficulty.

Cars aren’t the first thing I’ve got out of touch with. First the tide of popular culture left me stranded around 2006; I may just as well live in a village in Sardinia cut off from society’s artistic activities. I really have no idea now about very much general culture.

1200kr saved this year.

As an example, I mentioned a popular TV drama, (A Game of Abbeys?) recently and someone told me it had stopped about two years ago. The same goes for cars now which is why I stopped buying the magazines. Or else the magazines stopped being interesting so I stopped buying them. So in 2017 the tide of car culture left me stranded.

LA Car show car, apparently. Source indianautosblog.com:

Without print media I am left with only a hazy idea of what actually happened (I would really like a printed magazine to make cars interesting again. Being bored is the foyer to extinction, as Barthes wrote).

Driven to Write has some news reporting duties, though. Surely writing about the news will ensure some awareness of it? No, it doesn’t guarantee I’ll be able to recall what I wrote about the launches and car shows any more than the non-news items we turned out. Consider the LA car show, the last one of the year. Was anything interesting launched? No, not off the top of my head. The definition of interesting turns on it being something I can remember. Geneva stands as pretty much a blank too.

Why the long face? Arteon arrives. Image: Autoblog

If we turn to a review structured by brands, we will of course recall that PSA bought Opel so that’s it for Opel cars as a middle way between VW and Ford. Few here will care so I won’t bang on about it. The new Insignias I see seem extra poignant; whatever about that stupid fake side-glass, it’s a good-looking car and, let’s remember, massively better than any large car PSA has made for a decade.

Old and new fronts for new Fiesta

Ford launched a new Fiesta, including a Vignale version. Did they do anything else this year? Maybe that was 2016 too. No – launched in 2017.

Citroen facelifted the C-Cactus and stripped off the airbumps. While the car amounted to little more than a styling job, the airbumps had a bit of charm to them. Removing them makes me think of, say, taking the heat out of Tabasco for people who hate Tabasco.

2016 Honda Civic window

Honda? A hyper butch Civic emerged from them though that might have been launched in ’16, if I check. I don’t see any around here except the red or black one pasted with dealer decals so that doesn’t count. Danes aren’t taking to that car and the more I think about the more I dislike it. Civics used to be the thinking person’s quite-good-but-marginally-dull-reliable hatchback, didn’t they? With the new ultra-butch shape Honda intend to put off all the OAPs who go might for their Civics but also have put off everyone else. Maybe Americans will like it. Or maybe OAPs will go for it because it’s still a Honda and seniors can be a lot less afraid of others’ opinions.

Suzuki´s Ignis appeared on the streets, a very humorous, good natured car unlike the Ford KaPlus  which has the charm of a paper punch. I saw one last month and can’t imagine why anyone would want a car that is such a black hole for mirth and joy. The Korean car firms used to serve up utterly insipid, half-baked cars for people who cared zero about driving. The KaPlus now serves that market on its own, I am sure. If anyone reading this feels like they might want a KaPlus, go and buy a Suzuki Baleno which is simply a vastly better car, nicer and lovelier than the KaPlus even if it’s not terribly good.

VW? Diesel, still. A Phaeton replacement I haven’t clocked yet.

Mercedes. Thinks. Blank.

BMW. Oh, yes. Something to do with front-wheel drive cars coming soon in the form of the 1-series cars. We’ll look back on this year as the definitive setting in of the rot at the storied Munich brand.

2018 Toyota Century.

Finally, Toyota launched a new iteration of the Century. That must probably be the other highlight of the year, apart from the Ignis. Even if it’s a shade less austerely formal than the outgoing car it still shows the other want-to-be purveyors of stateliness how it’s done. And it’s done by maxing the quality without draping the whole thing in leather and shiny wood. Mercedes could well compete with the Century if they understood that some people might want a dead plain S-class with cloth seats and no shiny bits. For some reason they refuse to sell a car like this which means that the quiet rich have nowhere to go for usefully good cars. Isn’t that odd?

I will get back with a proper review of the year in due course, for the record. In the meantime, if anyone wishes to chip in with suggestions for the big events of 2017, please fill in the form below and submit it for our review in the normal way.

[* “Google Memories  – keeps all your experiences neatly catalogued and ordered, now with brain/BlueTooth link”.

** spy shots were shown in early 2016, for goodness sake.

*** It is a real car. ]


Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

10 thoughts on “What A Year It Has Been (Part 1)”

  1. The Stelvio is a bit too chubby and far from the elegance of older Alfa Romeo or other cars from Bel Paese, but compared to SUVs from Jaguar, Audi or also now Volvo with the XC 40, it is a gain for this segment.
    If i would want a sporty SUV, I wish there would be a light Peugeot 3008 GTI with the interior and details of the DS7 Crossback and the engine and the red colour of the Stelvio Quadrifoglio.

    Some disappointing cars I would add to Richard´s good list are the flock of new SUVs from the Volkswagen Group, none of them has something special. Or the diappointing Polo with lot of personality lost.
    Best new cars of 2017 are for me the Suzuki Ignis too- shame it is not one of the finalists for being the “Car of the year” 2017. And the Range Rover Velar (Ok, I have not seen this car on the road). And the Kia Stinger, but only because neither Honda nor Toyota are offering their new Camry and Accord in Europe. The new Camry has a brilliant interior. All of them are more attractive than the Insignia , which, i am sure, will age pretty soon.

  2. I think the attempt by Honda to make the Civic appeal to more youthful buyers is a sign of the current popularity of SUVs/CUVs/fat cars or whatever you want to call them. Older buyers like these because they are easier to get in and out of (apparently) and they get a better view and have room for transporting the clobber of their affluent lifestyle hobbies. The compact hatchback is dying a slow death so I suspect we’ll see more five door coupés for the dwindling number of people who don’t need vast space and practicality.
    I gave up reading car magazines years ago (including their online versions) when it became apparent that they had become just a vehicle for reproducing press releases. Looking at Autocar’s YouTube channel illustrates what’s wrong. Almost every video is sponsored by the a car maker and they are invariably about the most ridiculous, over-powered, over-priced, over-tyred and over-spoilered versions of cars that are raced around some track to prove they can go round 0.002 seconds quicker than the competition.

    1. Today I saw a Stelvio but I am in Germany. There were no Stingers in the Kia dealer I looked at. Car magazine tested it recently but I didn’t get to the result. I imagine BMW will lose some 5 sales yet feel Alfa and Jaguar have most to lose. Those customers are a bit more willing to try the alternatives.

  3. The Stelvio has been on sale in the UK for three months now and the only one I’ve seen was an egregiously-decalled dealer demonstrator. It’s surprising given that there must be a healthy “can’t wait for an F-Pace” market. Perhaps they just go to the Germans.

    Up to November Alfa YTD sales were 4,693 up from 4,589 in 2017, which suggests the Stelvio is making little impact, or is cannibalising Guilia sales. They’re only just beating Abarth’s 4,169.

    The evidence of my eyes suggests the Bentley Bentayga could be outselling the Stelvio in the UK. Could this be possible?

    1. I have seen one Stelvio in the wild this year – (or what’s left of it). Appropriately perhaps, parked at the harbour in Puerto Banús in Spain. While I was in the region, I did see a number of Giulias, a creature which remains of the hen’s teeth variety in the ‘British Isles’. Curiously, European sales for the Giulia appear pretty healthy, usefully outselling Jaguar’s XE for example. However, the Stelvio seems to be either suffering from availability issues or is not making much of an impact – the opposite of what has occurred at Jaguar, where the F-Pace is leaving the XE / XF twins for dead. Curious.

      Similarly, I have seen only one Kia Stinger on the road. Quite literally, I met one in traffic, so had no opportunity to properly appraise it, but on first glance, I was impressed. Only brand snobbery will prevent it from making serious inroads I suspect.

  4. Giulias are not too rare here. I guess it’s a mix of remaining Alfisti and some of the Italians here who haven’t fallen for the Germans yet. Stelvios I probably see once or twice a month. I guess it takes some time for them to become visible on the streets.

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