Monday, 20 December 2010

Mini Paceman

Forgive me, BMW, for picking on the Mini. I know it's supposed to be a small car, or at least it was supposed to be, but this is getting ridiculous.

I have to admit: I didn't get it to begin with.

But after all the snow recently, and seeing all sorts of BMWs stranded at the side of the road, it clicked.

The problem is this - BMW absolutely insisted that all proper cars had to be rear wheel drive. And so they spent a hell of a long time making sure that they had the best rear wheel drive cars of all. But they were wrong. You see, the thing is, rear wheel drive cars are beaten by front wheel drive, which are again beaten by the latest four wheel drives. But the Germans didn't want to lose face, so they developed the X1, the X3, the X5 and all sorts of xDrive combos for their saloons, and are so keen on pushing their four wheel drive models.

But they couldn't admit that they were wrong about the rear wheel drive, particularly when cars are getting smaller. So they bought a small British car maker, and revived the Mini brand.

So now they are trying to expand the Mini range, and have just decided to launch the Mini Paceman, which is a shorter and slightly less practical version of the Countryman. It certainly looks like a Mini, but why would you want to pay a premium for a larger Mini that is slightly smaller?

A little bit pointless then.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Chevrolet Orlando

It's been a bit of a dry spell recently for new car launches. Winter normally is; perhaps it's the cold dark nights that make car designers depressed. Or the fact that new cars don't sell well in the winter, and a spring or summer launch is sure to boost sales of a brand new design.

But if you happen to be a budget car maker trying desperately to shake off the terrible image of the previous owner, then your sales will be low year round, and it doesn't matter too much. And if your parent company want to release a new model of a car at a premium price, and you get the car as a trial run, then it makes perfect sense to launch in winter, so that the premium one can be launched in spring, ready to take the large number of orders.

So Chevrolet, formerly Daewoo (remember them? Buy a car one year, get a new one the next year) have just launched the MPV, the Orlando. It looks like it might just be the next Zafira. But I think that they've actually outsmarted Opel/Vauxhall on this one and launched an MPV that looks more like an SUV. Inside, it is quite futuristic and stylish without making you feel like Captain Kirk whenever you want to nip to the shops (see Honda? It can be done)

The styling queues smack of the Kia Soul - who would have thought that 10 years ago? - and it actually looks pretty good. It's a decent looking car and heading in the right direction. Other manufaturers should take note - the reason MPVs died a death is because they were superceded by SUVs, so it makes sense to adopt all the good features of SUVs and all the good features of MPVs and roll them into one nice package.

As far as MPVs go, this is pretty much spot on with today's market. Trouble is, it's Vauxhall's budget brother, but, at prices starting from £16,395 and the Zafira starting from £14,995, it doesn't make much sense until the new Zafira is launched. Even then, will the new Zafira match the Orlando? I don't know, so buying one just now is a bit of a gamble. You'd be better hammering the price down on an old-style Zafira.

You'd be better to wait until the new Zafira is launched. If it's more expensive than the Orlando, the Orlando is a clear winner.