Car of the year 2014
MOST DISAPPOINTING CAR
Citroën C4 Cactus
After I was sucked-in by the pre-launch hype, I was left saddened by Citroën’s funky-looking baby not being anywhere as innovative as it promised to be. It might be lightweight, by current standards, but it is underpinned by an elderly chassis, instead of Peugeot/Citroen’s most recent and lightweight alternatives. This should have been a car that pioneered true innovations and, instead of removing fittings, for instance, wind-down rear windows, it should have bristled with solutions, such as plastic suspension springs. Sadly, the Germans ended up beating the French to it. I was also disappointed by the decade-old diesel engine option, which has proven itself to be far from dependable (Google ‘DV6 engine problems’), and Citroen is still not capable of developing a decent gearshift cable to provide its five speed transmission with a less ‘baggy’ shift.
MOST SURPRISING CAR
Too often, a new car tries to appeal by excessive ‘blinginess’ or an over-reliance on its marketing departments. In many cases, it is almost impossible to assess a car properly, until it has been lived with. It is surprising how many manufacturers get the basics wrong, such as not making a vehicle easier to drive smoothly, or producing seats that fail to support the body correctly on a long drive, or possessing controls that feel numb, while making simple commands, such as adjusting the heater, or radio, unnecessarily complicated. The Suzuki S-Cross might look anodyne but I found it to be an exceptionally well thought-out machine. Practical, comfortable, economical, non gimmicky and refined. Perhaps 2014’s best kept secret?
CAR OF THE YEAR
2014 has been the year of the Plug-in Hybrid and the car that has brought the technology to mainstream attention is Mitsubishi’s Outlander PHEV. The running gear is astonishing, in that it possesses a good electric-only range and it offers strong acceleration, right to UK motorway speed limits, all without the internal combustion engine firing-up. However, the test car’s rattling interior panels, poor suspension damping and vague steering put me off bestowing it with my CoTY. A colleague has suggested that the…pause for breath..Mercedes-Benz C300 BlueTEC Hybrid AMG should take my CoTY too but, as I have not driven that model, I have to discount it.
Instead, I find myself in amazement at a car that is beyond both my means and, no doubt, those of many others. It is the Tesla Model S P85, the world’s first all-electric luxury saloon. Costing around £70,000, it makes its competition, such as the Jaguar XFR, Lexus LS460 and even BMW Active Hybrid 7 seem ‘so last year’. The Tesla might not feature an engine but it offers upwards of 285 miles of range on a full charge, plus it can achieve 0-60mph in 3.2 seconds. Unlike most other electric (or hybrid) models, the Tesla has been designed wholly around its electric-only architecture and is, therefore, less compromised than other models that offer alternative power sources within the same body.
Driving the car, briefly, uncovers few compromises that one might expect. Unlike the more real-world Mitsubishi plug-in Hybrid, the Tesla possesses well set-up steering and comfortable damping, both of which are well-tuned to the brisk but effortless acceleration. Looking past its Mercedes switchgear, the interior, with its centre console dominated by a 17-inch touch-screen, is as futuristic as the driving experience. Yet, this might be the problem. The car feels like an iPhone. It looks and possesses the feel of the zenith in today’s technology but I feel that its novelty will wear off rapidly, resulting in it dating as quickly as last year’s laptop. Despite this flaw, it deserves its place in my 2014 Car of The Year.