Hid­den gems sparkle

For­got­ten mod­els get lost among the hype

The Weekend Post - Motoring - - CRUISE CONTROL -

IN the show­rooms and yards of our Far North­ern deal­er­ships sit a few ve­hi­cles which buy­ers are ig­nor­ing at their peril.

If, buy­ers look beyond mar­ket trends and hype, there are ac­tu­ally su­per mod­els in the lower parts of the charts.

Our mar­ket, re­garded as the most com­pet­i­tive in the world, has more than 50 brands and hun­dreds of mod­els — prob­a­bly more than 1000 if you in­clude ev­ery spec­i­fi­ca­tion and vari­ant within each model’s line-up.

We reckon some cars de­serve a bit more love than they’re get­ting.

Un­til lately Ford Aus­tralia had for­got­ten that, apart from the Ranger and Mus­tang, there are some other great mod­els in their range.

The Mon­deo is a su­perb large sedan or wagon (top right) that’s been ig­nored for years but in 2016 it emerged from the shad­ows to record a 47 per cent sales in­crease.

Fi­nally would-be Fal­con buy­ers fi­nally took a Mon­deo for a drive and re­alised how good it is.

It’s a sim­i­lar story with the Fo­cus, which has punchy tur­bocharged en­gines, fron­trow-of-the-grid dy­nam­ics and up-to-the-minute safety tech.

An­other Ford with A-grade driv­ing, safety and in­fo­tain­ment cre­den­tials, the Kuga has been re­badged as the Es­cape for 2017, which should im­prove its dis­mal for­tunes in the boom­ing mid-size SUV class.

The Kuga (Cougar) name was al­ways a bit dodgy. Women ran for the ex­its as soon as they saw it, for ob­vi­ous rea­sons.

Mazda builds some of the best qual­ity cars on the mar­ket, none more so than the Mazda6, its mid-size sedan and wagon that’s made in Ja­pan. Even at base model level, it’s a beau­ti­fully crafted piece, com­pa­ra­ble with an Audi in ma­te­ri­als, fit and fin­ish, yet sales are go­ing back­wards.

Per­haps, as with the Mon­deo, Honda’s Ac­cord, Subaru’s Lib­erty, VW’s Pas­sat and many other fam­ily-size cars, it’s been run over by the SUV jug­ger­naut.

There’s a wait­ing list for the top-spec Ford Ranger 4WD dou­ble-cab utes, such as the Wild­trak, even with a price push­ing $65,000 on the road. Cashed-up tradies can’t get enough of this truck.

Yet the same ute with a dif­fer­ent suit — the Mazda BT-50 (be­low, far right)— sells fewer than one-third of the Ford’s num­bers, de­spite be­ing up to $8000 cheaper. OK, so the Mazda misses out on a few safety and in­fo­tain­ment fea­tures but that doesn’t ex­plain it.

The rea­son is much sim­pler. The Ranger looks tough. The Mazda looks too car or SUV­like.

But that doesn’t seem to mat­ter to Table­landers as the BT-50 is seen on the roads and farms all over the place.

Peu­geot’s sec­ond­gen­er­a­tion 308 (right), launched in 2015, is a beau­ti­ful car in the finest French tra­di­tion.

With a suite of fuel-ef­fi­cient turbo en­gines, both petrol and diesel, plus out­stand­ing road­hold­ing and com­fort, tidy han­dling and very chic sheet metal, it should be on ev­ery VW Golf buyer’s test drive list.

Yet the Golf out­sells it by al­most 16 to one.

Jaguar must be dis­ap­pointed by the lack of in­ter­est in its sec­ond-gen­er­a­tion XF.

A new model is sup­posed to put a rocket un­der sales, not send them into re­verse, but that’s what’s hap­pened with the XF, a much-im­proved drive over its pre­de­ces­sor — and, un­til the new BMW 5 Se­ries gets here soon, ar­guably the pick of the class.

Skoda makes re­badged VWs in the Czech Repub­lic.

They should be right up any young hip­ster’s street but the Fabia, Rapid, Oc­tavia and Yeti have al­ways strug­gled to get on buy­ers’ radar. That may be be­cause, un­til re­cently, Sko­das cost sim­i­lar money to the real VWs they were cloned from, so peo­ple just bought the lat­ter.

Still, the Oc­tavia and Su­perb are fine cars, good value and worth your in­spec­tion.

Walk into a BMW show­room and you’ll see the fu­ture of mo­tor­ing, into which BMW poured bil­lions of eu­ros in an­tic­i­pa­tion that, yes, the time is right and the Era of the Elec­tric Car has ar­rived. To­day.

You’ll first have to weave your way through a heap of shiny new V8-pow­ered X5s and weapons-grade stuff such as the mighty M4 and M5, but even­tu­ally you’ll find the sales dis­as­ter that is the i3. BMW’s elec­tric wun­der­ma­chi­nen has been a dud, not just here but around the world, since its launch in 2013.

Aus­tralians bought 92 ex­am­ples last year.

The wild­card? Citroen’s funky DS3, some­thing dif­fer­ent with a sporty en­gine and chas­sis. Only 33 sales last year.

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