Small Plates

Rounding out our Costa del Sol observations with a tapas of varied local delicacies.

Given that Sundays are intended to be days of rest, rather than framing any over-riding narrative, I’m presenting these automotive gleanings largely without much by way of comment and even less of insight.

Firstly, we find a current generation Fiat Panda. Nothing of terrific note here, you might say and I might even agree, but isn’t that Tangerine colour marvellous? An added bonus being the Jade green of the Ford Focus in the background – a handy nod to Green Car Bingo of distant memory.

I have mentioned the number and diversity of older cars still plying the roads in this part of Andalucía. This Polo Classic dates from the model’s second generation and was I believe built in Pamplona – Southern European markets favouring three-volume shapes to hatchbacks – a preference which appears to have faded out over the intervening years. This model, and its Derby predecessor was also a popular choice in my home country – another once deeply traditional market. I have absolutely no idea when I last saw one of these – tidy looking thing, isn’t it?

w140

This picture really doesn’t require much by way of context or dissection. Nothing is immune from time’s hand and while this W140 S-Class appeared pretty hale externally, who knows what cripplingly expensive repairs luck beneath its largely pristine bodywork? In SWB form, the 140 almost works, were it not for the overbearing canopy height and that drooping lower DLO. Larger roadwheels and a wider track width would have done wonders as well.

This was something of a surprise. While the municipal police employed other makes (I can’t recall what, but it was something white and forgettable), the national forces appear to have purchased a job-lot of Picassos. Plenty of space for loading up a brace of ‘overexcited’ foreign tourists perhaps, (not actually their purview and Marbella isn’t really that sort of town) but a somewhat unorthodox choice nonetheless.

And finally. On my last night it rained, but I’m used to that, so stepping between the raindrops I happened upon this pairing. Cacti are rather common in this part of Spain, as indeed are Citroëns generally, but the percentage of first generation to current gen is overwhelmingly weighted toward the former. It’s not difficult to see why; when a car is sold so overtly on style, the current iteration simply cannot hold a candle to the earlier model, which for all its faults maintains a much stronger personality.

And there endeth the 2019 Spanish chronicles. Until next time at least.

Author: Eóin Doyle

Founding Editor. Content Provider.

32 thoughts on “Small Plates”

  1. Hi Eoin,

    I was surprised by the MPV choice for the police but yes it makes sense to have space for inebriated tourists. God knows what the Magaluf police use, cattle vans ?

    1. …..And between the green Focus, the white Seat and the orange Panda you have the homeland’s tricolour

  2. Looking at the Panda I was thinking how the Renault Modus could have perhaps evolved to take on the Italian city car. With AWD added to a second generation Modus to rival the Panda 4×4 it might have been a good competitor despite the 1st and only generation’s lack of success. The Twingo would still rival the 500 and the Modus would’ve faced the Panda. Both the 500 and Panda are still the European best sellers in their segment after all despite their advanced age and Renault’s success was often tied to its small cars.

    1. Ah, the Modus. I hired what was supposed to be a Smart in Berlin back in 2004 and was somewhat surprised to be handed the keys to a Modus. It went well enough but sadly not many actually wanted one so it vanished fairly rapidly. Almost all the ones I see (and they are getting rapidly fewer) have 2005 plates. Also, they’re nearly all red.

    2. Hi DP,

      Sorry you got a Modus instead of the coveted Smart. They’re very cheap here in France but I don’t see that many red ones. As if to spite me and my idea for the Modus, FCA announced today that the next Panda will grow and be a B-segment car from then on.

    3. Unconfirmed reports from FCA sources suggest their forthcoming B-segment offering will be called the Panto.

      Oh no it isn’t…..

  3. I assume that the poor old W140 is not actually for hire, but opportunistically parked there to advertise a fleet of rather more mundane vehicles. What an ignominy for such a fine (if bombastic) car. I hadn’t really noticed before, but it is oddly high-roofed. This is somewhat less apparent on the LWB version, as is the slightly droopy waistline:

    The Mk2 Polo Classic looks to be in fine fettle for a car that’s at least thirty years old. (The A-pillar treatment identifies it as a pre-1990 facelift model.) White is a good colour for an old car, not suffering from UV damage and hiding light scratches much better than darker solid colours.

    Yes, it’s a real shame that Citröen “normalised” the Cactus in order to turn it into a stop-gap replacement for the regular C4. Has this worked? I’m not sure I’ve ever seen the facelifted Cactus on the road.

    Thanks again, Eóin, for sharing your holiday automotive observations with us. Very entertaining!

    1. The W140 originally was intended to have even smaller wheels than shown in the picture. Relatively late durinbg its development Mercedes did hard brake tests and found the brakes didn’t fit the then rapidly raising standards. Up to then good brakes never had been a Mercedes characteristic as opposed to BMW or particularly Porsche but journalists shifted focus to brake performance at that time. The result was W140 needed bigger brakes and bigger wheels to accomodate them. Bigger wheels didn’t fit inside the wheelarches which had to be enlarged at tremendous cost which must have broken some parsimonious Swabians’ hearts.

    2. The W140 isn’t really ‘high-roofed’, is it? It just has normal, useful windows.
      Now we have already come to believe that today’s slit-window fashion is what a car is supposed to look like…

    3. Hi Simon,

      In fact yesterday, after that comment, I checked the height of the last 4 S-Classes but I didn’t post it because I thought it was way too nerdy (I do have some restraint as you can see). If I remember correctly (I didn’t save the data) the current S-class is as tall as the W140 but other versions were sometimes considerably lower than the W140 depending on the version.

    4. I think the ‘high-roofed’ look is rather what we should call ‘high-canopy’, and it’s probably not only to do with the overall height of the vehicle. The impression of a high roof is probably rather due to the beltline being very low (for today’s standards, anyway) in relation to the height.

  4. Is there supposed to be a photo of police liveried Picassos? I just seem to have a gap between paragraphs?

    Lovely Panda, by the way. Great colour but also a rare honest car in today’s pricelists. I wonder if it will survive the PSA-FCA merger?

    1. I always preferred the Panda Mk2’s original shape with its clearly defined industrial design over the facelifted version in the picture which looks like molten in the sun and has a particuarly nasty interior with its contrived ‘squarecular’ detailing. A Panda 100 HP in its originaly bodywork was a car to have real fun in, something Fiat was really good at but seems to have forgotten about.

    2. That Panda is beautiful!

      The Fiat Panda is my rental car of choice when lucky enough to be travelling the Southern parts of Europe. Other than maybe a Dacia, I don’t think any other model currently available as new fulfills the simple brief of “car” as convincingly: a practical, affordable box on wheels to haul people and their belongings from A to B with reasonable ease, comfort and efficiency. It’s surprisingly large on the inside, surprisingly fun to drive (69 horsepower are apparently plenty), surprisingly quiet and visibility is fantastic. (Not to mention its supposed offroad credentials in 4×4 spec.)

      Italians seem to know and appreciate this, making the Panda the country’s best selling car since 2012. It is consistently far outselling the Fiat 500 that seems to do all of the above much worse. (Unfortunately Wikipedia only has the numbers until 2015 – is there some portal that makes international car sales statistics accessible for free?)

    3. Hi Max,

      Iam always after sales number and for free you don’t have a big choice, sites seem to make good money selling access to this data. however Carsalesbase is still the best for regular free statistics and analyses. The Jato website sometimes have free data available. Bestsellingcarsblog used to have a mixture of free and paying stuff, a good site for unusual sales statistics (Top ten cars in Angola, that type of stuff)

    4. ……Just-auto and AutomotivenewsEurope sometimes have free data or analysis but most articles aren’t free

    5. The JATO website is a bit awkward to navigate. For the free articles you need to click in the ‘Media’ section at the top and then click on JATO Blog

    6. Thanks, NRJ! There is a good chunk of information available on those sites. A neat excel file with models, years, countries for all of Europe I will continue dreaming about though.

      It seems though, like the Panda continues to be Italy’s best selling car. It 2018 it still outsold #2 by factor 2 (so says bestsellingcarsblog.com).

      For anybody interested in detailed German registration number, this is the official source: https://www.kba.de/DE/Statistik/Fahrzeuge/Neuzulassungen/MonatlicheNeuzulassungen/2019/201909_GImonatlich/201909_n_top50.html?nn=653844

    7. Dave, I am with you in preferring the preceding Panda 2, especially in 100HP form. But I still find the later car pleasing and will rue the day when it disappears, quite probably without replacement if latest scribblings are to be believed. I will mourn FIAT if it disappears as a brand, which it might well.

  5. Some police departments here in the Netherlands use MPV’s as well, either VW Touran or Mercedes B class. In case we’re still playing green car bingo here’s a photo I took today at almost the same spot as Friday’s 607.

    And only 20 meters further I found another rarity

    Hope you all have a great Sunday.

    1. Thank you Freerk, good Sunday too. Did you ever think this spot might be in the Twilight zone or is perhaps some sort of portal to another reality ?

    1. Ah, the infamous Pinto. Top spotting, Freerk, well done!

      They certainly did things differently in the U.S. back in the 1970’s. The Pinto’s proportions are extraordinary for a supposed “economy” car, where one would expect space and practicality to be a top priority. The bonnet looks enormously long for its (mainly) four-cylinder engines, and the passenger compartment very restricted. It looks more like a US version of the Capri than a compact hatchback. The contemporary Chevrolet Vega was similarly proportioned, if rather prettier, while the AMC Gremlin was, er, not. Here are all three:

  6. As much as I adore spotting as a conversation starter,
    somehow I feel that’s an exercise best left for Twitter.

    Having said that, however, DtW should definitely embrace
    such a diversity of automotive expression, especially
    if it is to keep the spark alive.

    (P.S. No Chevrolet city cars were harmed
    in forging the above sentence).

    1. Yep, that makes sense, abandoning the only segment where you have a signifiant market share. The Panda and 500, although getting very long in the tooth, are still popular and not without charm (although I far prefer the honest Panda to the increasingly ersatz 500). The logic seems to be that margins are wafer thin and do not cover the cost of developing replacements. FCA Chief Executive Mike Manley wants to “move customers to to the B-segment” where Fiat has, er, nothing since the demise of the Jurassic era third generation Punto in 2018 after thirteen years, most of which it spent wildly off the pace.

      If the PSA/FCA merger* goes ahead, then I suppose we can expect another swiftly developed Fiat badged B-segment hatchback based on Peugeot 205 underpinnings, an eminently sensible but quite depressing prospect, since it will have precisely zero Fiat or Italian DNA (and will get those weirdly misaligned external door handles).

      * “Merger” in the manner that Germany “merged” with Poland in 1938, I imagine.

    2. Daniel: The Fiat part is a zombie company. They probably will scab some billions off of PSA and make their own thinly-Fiatised versions which means that you can have a Fiat, Citroen, Opel and Peugeot version of the same basic car. I think some of those brands have an idea of what make them different. Fiat, not so. Opel´s vision of the Corsa is going to have a hard time being given clarity when it has to survive on PSA foundations.
      It´d be good if Fiat closed down and went away. Give 50K to every worker and let them do something else with their lives. Sell off the plant and let someone else make cars if they want. Fiat itself is a spent force.

    3. That news genuinely made me sad. If Fiat abandons the A segment it means that it’s gone. The European small car as we know it is a thing of the past. And having so much fun and happy memories about small cars (smaller then subcompacts) it really saddens me. Who else makes small cars? Renault does, but if FCA’s margin is too small, that means the Twingo can’t have a much brighter future either (they announced that they want to play the margin-chasing game as well). VW still has the Up!, but that model is even older than the current generation Panda, so there are doubts about it having a successor.
      And even if we look beyond the handful or European manufacturers we only have the Toyota Aygo citybug (which could be called a honorary-European as it’s made on the continent), but since the biggest feautre of the freshly announced Yaris is that it’s going to be smaller compared to it’s predecessor may lead to the conclusion that they want to cover both the upper-A and B segment with the same car. Oh, and then there’s Hyundai/KIA which actually just announced a new generation of small cars (hooray, it’s the biggest news of the A-segment in like 5 years!), but who are they going to compete with if everyone else is going out of business? The Japanese can no longer afford to ship in their domestic-market kei cars due to the strong yen and their Thai- and Indian built cars belong in a much different quality bracket. The world just looks a lot darker place if my iteration of Mr. Manley’s words are correct.

      Ps.: I’m a new commenter, have been reading on this blog for a few weeks, great content!

    4. Welcome to the fold Lazlo, and thanks for the kind words. We may not all agree on everything around here, but I think we can all coalesce around the fact that of all the changes coming down the line within the motor industry, the decimation of the A-segment class is one of the most depressing and retrograde. For them to be collateral damage in moves to lower corporate emission figures is not only deeply ironic, but infuriating. But as auto industry management remain fixated on less resistant pathways, we can’t hope for much from them.

  7. The way Richard’s above (probably unintentional) omittance
    of the venerable L-brand, sounds, at this particular moment,
    is rather disturbing, to say the least. The tone of the closing remarks, being particularly dark, does not help to mend the bitterness of these rather shocking circumstances.

    In a parallel universe, and perhaps viewed through a healthy layer of rose-tinted filters, Lancia would be resurrected,
    at least as a less cartoonish brand-engineering existence,
    offering (at a price!) opulent, super comfy, leather- & wood-
    clad interiors, in a vehicle endowed with a clean, dominant
    styling, and (sadly but at least “possible”) the underpinnings
    of the C4 Cactus with the hydraulic bumpstops, and a stance
    that would be SUV-ish but decently styled so as to tantalise
    also the few potentially SUVophobic audiences that remain.

    It would be a marvellous, decidedly ‘posh’ positioned small(ish) SUV, with an astounding emphasis of driving
    comfort and luxury that’s (still) not easily found within
    an urban-footprint offering: first-to-market etc.

    If the price positioning is bravely aimed at the well-off individuals, it would not nibble on Citroen’s piece
    of that virtue, as a Citroen just wouldn’t sell
    in such a costly, ‘very posh’ premiumised
    package. Here, the hydr.bump-stops would not be explicitely advertised, nor mentioned – they’d be just there.

    Even if the above sounds as a good stretch, I still think Lancia, as a brand, has the needed iconic background to have a sufficient marketing maximum payload for such
    an exercise, so to speak.

    The main brand, on the other hand, has always been synonimous with genius, yet acceptable, entry-level
    products. The fact that the margin/development demand equation is slowly killing-off the majority of entry-level offerings, might give an entirely justified background
    to such dire forecasts as the one above.

    Still, these are indeed properly big changes taking place.

    So many uncertainties at the bread-and-salt part of the market, with almost no worries (seemingly)
    at its other part.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.