December 28, 2006

Cars You Can't Have: Euro Edition

Where to start, another trip abroad just leaves me wondering what the hell is wrong with the car executives in the US? There are so many awesome-yet-practical, family-friendly cars in the world, and yet here we are stuck in a sea of SUV's...

  • The obvious starter, though, is the BMW 1-series, the car we rented when the Mercedes B-Class went missing. It's a small wagon, a competitor to the Audi A3, but it held plenty, there was room for four and a car seat [in a pinch, though three did fine], and it handled and drove great. A fast, quiet, modern turbodiesel made me fall slightly out of love with our old 80's Mercedes tank on the ride home from the airport.
  • Interestingly enough, the Mercedes B-Class itself didn't really stand out that much in its natural habitat. It's nowhere near as stylin' as the smaller, older A-Class; it even looked kind of stodgy. I might be falling out of love with this one, too, even before I get a throw.


    Sexy non-surprise: the Ford S-Max looks insane. Honestly, it is the coolest-looking minivan in the world, but it's definitely a minivan, none of this crossover/MPV nonsense.


    The discovery: Peugeot's mid-sized 407-SW wagon, which is striking from almost every vantage point. It's also got a great, practical review from the Yahoo UK folks. Of course, I like it first because the tail looks like a stretched version of the early MB A-Class wedge.


    I've seen a few 1-series BMW hatchbacks driving around here in Southern California, but I suspect it was just being tested or imported by individuals. BMW has said they are going to bring the 1-series coupe and convertible to the US soon.

    Euros in general all think wagons/hatchbacks are both sportier and more practical than sedans. Sedans tend to be associated with old people. The French, though, have a love affair with the "mono-espace", which is sort of a really small minivan, like that S-Max you have pictured there. The new Mazda5 is the only thing we have here that resembles it. The other French characteristic is they are almost always front-wheel drive and under-powered (but if it's a diesel and you stick to city streets, you don't notice much because of all that torque). I am jealous of all of the great diesels they have available out there. In California, we have none now!

    The 407 is beautiful... surprised you didn't see any a month ago in Japan, as they were everywhere. (Of course, I was in Tokyo, which is a bit more of a foreign car mecca than the Kansai region where you were, I think. I swear there are more Mercedes in the Azabu area than Toyotas... even some of the cops have unmarked MB sedans.)

    OK Greg, now I know you have given in to the dark side... "coolest-looking minivan in the world"? Time was you would have slit your wrists with shards of your Frank Lloyd Wright china before uttering those words.

    However, I'll see your Pew-geot and raise you a Alfa-Romeo 159 Sportwagon, the "coolest looking wagon in the world", although it would be a toss-up over which of those cars would spend more time in the shop. Supposedly, there are plans to bring A-R back to the USA in the next couple of years, although we've heard that story before.

    As for the S-Max, I can't even talk about that thing without wanting to knock some heads together over in Dearborn. I can see the reasoning for dumping the Windstar, it's a POS, and 10-15 years of development doesn't seem to have brought it any closer to its competition. But to leave the minivan/mpv market entirely and cede it to Honda and Toyota?
    Are these guys nuts? When they have the C-Max, S-Max and Galaxy ready to go in Europe? It can't take that much effort to get them federalized for the US. Not to mention the Mondeo and Mondeo wagon. If I was a Ford stockholder, I would be raising hell.

    [i'm as surprised as you about the minivan comment, believe you me. Not as surprised at the lack of availability in the US, though. As for the Alfa wagon, I only saw a quick driveby of one, this week, not enough to ID it; but that 159 was spotted here on DT a little while back. -ed.]

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