Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Car Web Awards

It's the end of the year and I proudly present you the Car Web Awards 2008.

International Awards

Japan Car of the Year

Contenders: Honda Fit vs Nissan GT-R
The 2008 Honda Fit impresses us with its clever design, fuel efficiency and spaceship-like design, but the power and ability of the playstation-like Nissan GT-R pips it for the award.
Winner: Nissan GT-R

Korean Car of the Year

Contenders: Chevrolet Cruze vs Kia Forte
The Chevrolet Cruze marks a promising small car segment for General Motors, but plagued with financial problems, its launch delayed. Plus we can't stand its ugly grille. The Kia Forte, outstanding in every way and a bold new design from Kia takes the top prize.
Winner: Kia Forte

European Car of the Year

Contenders: Opel Insignia vs Ford Fiesta
The Opel Insignia is such a beautiful car, looking so expensive in every way, that the clever Fiesta is unable to match.
Winner: Opel Insignia

American Car of the Year

Chevrolet Camaro vs Corvette Z06
Both are great cars, the Corvette a better performer. But the yellow camaro with black stripes looks just irresistable. Call it movie-star appeal.
Winner: Chevrolet Camaro

Chinese Car of the Year

Well we don't expect much from China, but the Roewe 550 has proven to be one of the finest made and most promising Chinese car of 2008. So we have to acknowledge its presence.
Winner: Roewe 550

Indian Car of the Year

Tata, the owner of Jaguar and Land Rover, made a small crude car and sold it for one lakh. For all the news and controversy at the factory plant, we think it deserves the award.
Winner: Tata Nano

Malaysian Car of the Year

Proton has gone backwards, and there's no better car out there in Malaysia other than the Perodua Myvi, which in actual fact a Daihatsu Sirion.
Winner: Perodua Myvi

Category Awards

Small Car Award

Honda Fit vs Fiat 500
The 2008 Fit, though clever, has ran out of ideas for its next design. The Fiat 500, though impractical, gives us an incomparable sense of nostalgia with its "oh my god you're so cute" design. So there goes our vote.
Winner: Fiat 500

Small Family Car Award

Honda Civic vs Volkswagen Golf
The Honda Civic is the most practical Japanese small car you can find around. Plus its futuristic interior does not exude a sense of cheap-made quality. But it is the bland bread and butter Golf that shows us money can buy you a great car with an Audi-like interior. We'll put our money there.
Winner: Volkswagen Golf

Large Family Car Award

Mazda 6 vs Honda Accord
I always liked the Honda Accord, but it was always like a piece of bread, enough to fill me but with a very bland taste. The Mazda 6 is not an all-rounder, neither is it class leading, but its special looks and character makes up for it. And the glass-house lamps of the Mazda 6 are beautiful.
Winner: Mazda 6

Small Exceutive Car Award

BMW 3 Series vs Merc C Class
This award should go to the 3 Series for driving dynamics, but the C Class just looks and feels so upmarket that we have to vote for it. And it is one of the best looking Mercs ever.
Winner: Merc C Class

Exceutive Car Award

BMW 5 Series vs Jaguar XF
The 5 series is good, but dated. A very perfect car, but it cannot match the appeal of the new Jag and its futuristic toys in the cabin. The transformers-like performace of the Jag interior amuses us, so it wins.
Winner: Jaguar XF

Large Exceutive Car Award

Maserati Quattroporte vs Merc S Class
The S Class is a very good large car that rides very well, but compared to the appeal of a Maserati, which will you choose? I'll pick the Maserati.
Winner: Maserati Quattroporte

Luxury Car Award

There aren't many contenders, and the Phantom made most of the news, so we deem it's a winner.
Winner: Rolls Royce Phantom

Sports Coupe

Nissan 370Z vs Volkswagen Scirrocco
We like the 370Z for its resemblance with the old 240Z, and the Scirrocco for its character, but the interior of the 370Z wins. Plus the Scirrocco is just a Golf GTi under its hood.
Winner: Nissan 370Z

Supercar Award

Nissan GT-R vs Ferrari California
We're not biased Europeans here, so the GT-R robot gets the vote. The Ferrari California was the next most interesting car of the year. Move aside Porsche Lambo. We're sick of you.
Winner Nissan GT-R

SUV Award

BMW X5 vs Range Rover
The Range Rover is getting old, and the BMW drives really well. We pick the BMW for its looks and if we wanted an SUV just to show off. The Range Rover is impractical.
Winner: BMW X5

MPV Award

Honda Odyssey vs Ford S-Max
The do-it-all Odyssey rides low and feels like a car. But the S Max drives like a car. And the Odyssey is too common on Singapore roads. So we pick the S Max.
Winner: Ford S-Max

Tell us what you think!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Happy Mazda

I'm so happy for Mazda, oops no. I mean Mazda is so happy! Even in the worst financial crisis. Just take a look in their smiling new cars. Makes me happy too. I'll take a happy Mazda!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Ssangyong Musso: You thought it was a joke, now it's a song!

This is dedicated to all Ssangyong Musso bashers.

Ssangyong Musso Jingles (Adapted for Jingle Bells)

Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride
When the Ssangyong is so slow

Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride
When the Ssangyong is so slow

Dashing through the snow
In an old Ssangyong Musso
Along the fields we go
Ssangyong needs a tow
Brakes on Ssangyong squeak
Dashboard pieces creak
What fun it is to laugh at it
A whole damn thing piece of shit

Oh Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride
When the Ssangyong is so slow

Oh Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride
When the Ssangyong is so slow

A day or two ago
I thought I'd take a ride
And soon enough I cried
When the aircon was not right
The car was just alright
Then smoke came to my sight
The coolant pump had leaked and blew
And sent me so much fright

Oh Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride
When the Ssangyong is so slow

Oh Go Ssangyong Go Ssangyong,
Go Ssangyong Musso
Oh, no fun it is to ride

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The General Outlook

Life couldn't get worse for the world of petrolheads. Rising fuel prices, shrinking roads, more congestion, more cars, more idiots driving like vacuum cleaners on the road, and here comes the greatest problem of all - the great depression, well almost. Well you see, nothing really beats the pain of petrolheads other than the ability to own a car, and so much this crisis spells an age where hardships begin.

Many auto carmakers are shrinking their production capacity, alot. Famously, Volvo and Jaguar have made their decisions to the headlines. Still pending are talks of merger between two American car giants - Chrysler and General Motors. And the Ford management is calling for one Ford. Not bad actually, because most American cars turn out to be really crap. Europeansing them could be a way of an upgrade to their lives despite their poor financial status as of now.

At such times, even incumbent automaker Toyota has felt the pinch. Sales have fallen temendously and it too has to cut back on production. At such times, the most cushy jobs can be found in extravagantly luxury carmakers like Rolls Royce and maybe some other supercars. It's not only comfy, I would say. Slack too. I would certainly like to be the one designing the next Porsche 911, or Aston Martin. A new Rolls too maybe, because all I need is a ruler and a pencil. Ferraris are getting uglier, but in return more sellable, so it would be a bad option to be working there as a designer too. There probably isn't much work to start with.

That aside, tastes for car sizes have changed too - smaller. We'll soon see our road being flooded with tiny hatchbacks, even for sedan crazy Singapore. I hope we adopt the hatchback culture soon, for I really have a soft spot for them. It's pretty heartening to see our roads filled with Corsas, Fiestas, and maybe more ugly Minis.

The financial crisis hasn't hit me - yet. I'm living a comfy live waiting for my discharge from National Conscription into the elite forces that rule the skies. But I'll be without salary the next two months, which means I could possibly be contributing alot more time here ranting about cars, and the crisis that will soon hit me. I probably try to contribute to the society with my suggestions of fuel sipping cars and green alternatives. Yes, everyone is doing that I know. So I should evaulaute which gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Ok, enough ranting. More news coming.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Where's the SOUL?

An intentional pun from most South Korean product makers, the word SOUL probably was a popularisation of the captial Seoul, which many have made fun of. Interestingly, many SOUL products have captured much media hype and attention. Samsung's SOUL series handsets have such sleek appeal that sales have been a runaway success. Will this be the same for the Kia's new mini-MPV contender?

The SOUL's overall looks reminds me of the Daihatsu Material - boxy, fun and no consideration of any aerodynamics. The SOUL is something I would say being very pretty. It's more of a bold statement meant to show off it's road imposing looks rather than anything else. If there were ever an indicator for eye-friendly cars, the SOUL would have nearly been put out of competition. With this being said, it isn't any different for the Daihatsu Material and it's uglier sibling the Toyota Bb. Both are immensely written with the word ugly all over that they're such unforgettable cars.

But still, they sell and that's why Kia isn't sitting back here. The SOUL re-interprets the wayward design philosophy of Toyota and creates a block of slab that is only differentiated by it's SUV-looking stance. It's a kind of an amalgamation of design theories all coming together at the end to produce something messy like the RX-8. Most all-in one things do in fact. So Kia is showing that it can re-create the "fun" Toyota caters for it fans at a greater value(with their cars always being cheaper). Unless it isn't priced to match European counterparts, the SOUL will find many fans, just like Kia cars.

With Kia making so many good quality cars out there nowadays, the built of this car shouldn't be any bit suspicious, and the interior is a little more refreshing compared to Kia sister models. Good quality soft plastics all over, but I kind of hate the way Hyundai/Kia design their buldging centre coloun-stack. It's supposed to aid the driver by making the button on the dash more reachable, but I would really have preferred to stretch if it would have turned out so ugly. I fancy the brand new sonata interior, but it seems to be a one time effort and they're going back to their planned direction again.

The SOUL isn't a fantastic car, it isn't something great, but it's just the kind of car that makes you wanna say "I want to buy a Kia!". It will capture stares on the road, and make many envious on the tremendous value your car got you. And most importantly, people are finally going to say "You've got a cool car! Oh my god it's a KIA?!?!", and that's a kind of pride you get for parting with your money for this new friend of your garage. Kia cars are really getting good and cool, but Hyundai is going the wrong way. But I think there's more to come from them. More surprises. More fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Roewe 550

A little history

Since SAIC went into administration in 2005, we haven’t exactly heard anything from the brand Rover ever since. In fact, the Rover brand name which was then owned by Ford couldn’t be used by SAIC in branding their Chinese versions of the Rover 75. So the witty Chinese men went to call theirs Roewe, or “Rong Wei” in their local mandarin pronunciations.

The Roewe 750 was the Chinese clone of the Rover 75, and in design terms it was a step back from the British retro flair that the 75 was adored for. Some say the 75 was made for the Queen and some even said there was no way to go backwards from a Rover 75. To me however, it was just an exquisite British classic masterpiece which found itself out of place in the fast-paced world.

Roewe 550

So let us step into this brand new era of Chinese cars with the little sibling of the Roewe 750 – The Roewe 550. Some might think it’s just merely a re-styled or re-shaped Rover 45, but look again. This is a all-new model penned by a British firm and produced from scratch entirely by Chinese efforts. Now let’s take a look at it’s design.

Now all we can see here is that it’s lost all it’s British-ness from previous Rovers but what the heck? It’s a Roewe! Not a Rover. Now that certainly looks good from this angle, although the grille has a little “in your face” styling but radical designs work pretty well in modern day art. Looks at all those “Bangled” BMWs and their numerous design cues cloned elsewhere. Great. I like it. The silhouette of the car screams Lexus IS, but that isn’t a bad thing. Not let us take a back angle view.

Well a departure from the radically-styled front actually translates into a very classy rear design that wraps up very nicely at the end. I like the red in-house lights and a beige Roewe 550 if I ever get one. A little drawback is that they should have used those shark fin antennas on the roof instead of the old long ones. It makes the car look cheap, even though we know its of Chinese roots.

Under the hood of the Roewe 550 is the “good” old Rover K Series engine. SAIC claims it’s improved, and complies to Euro IV emission standards. The 1.8 litre turbocharged petrol version previously found in the Land Rover Freelander and the Rover 75 delivers 150 bhp, while the 2.0 litre diesel drive train will offer almost similar levels of power. SAIC also claims to be launching hybrid versions in the near future. The car is also said to be mated with a six-speed automatic gearbox and consumption figures are hailed to be 6 litres per 100km, which is rather impressive for the 1.8l turbo-charged model(in Chinese car standards).

Above is a 3D rendering of the Roewe 550 interior. The instrument cluster is rather futuristic or rather weirdly unconventional. I think it looks cool, but the odd mix of the dark background and the bright red lightings makes it look like some third-rate Hong Kong red-light district in the front seat. Other than that, the rest is fine, although many may question on its build quality. I actually think Roewe stole many plastic pieces from their sister brand Ssangyong, and it does seem to be a good thing for the quality of plastics used in new Ssangyongs. I have to agree though, that it isn’t perfect, and often I find places where it’s easy to get cuts while accessing those plastic regions.

Most importantly, the 550 is built to the European NCAP 5 star crash test safety standards, which means unlike any other Chinese car, you actually feel safe to ride in one!

On the whole, the Roewe 550 looks like a very promising car. Although it’s not entirely perfect or well-made, and sits on a platform which will turn a decade old in a year’s time, it shows the beginning of a new era of quality Chinese cars. If it’s priced competitively to cars like the Honda Civic and the Toyota Corolla, the 550 would be a very good car to buy for the money.

Vital Statistics

Model: Roewe 550
Engine: 1.8 Turbocharged, 2.0 Diesel
Transmission: Six-speed Automatic
Power: 150 bhp
Top Speed: 125 mph
Acceleration: 0-60mph: 11.2sec

Monday, April 21, 2008

Roewe 550

Hello guys. I have been absent for nearly the past 2 months and here I make a come back with a very interesting post of the month - The Roewe 550.

Roewe, although being a little tricky on the tongue, has been widely known due to the controversy about SAIC failing to buy over the "Rover" name from Ford. But Rover has never been a strong brand name, so I shouldn't see why the lack of the name will be of any disadvantage to it.

After almost a couple of years of effort, Roewe has finally rolled out it's very own production model(with minimal Rover roots). Although you might be reading alot of wonderful reviews of this car out there, my blog shall be different in that:
1. I do not side Chinese Car makers
2. Neither am I a fan of Western Car makers
3. No Design in this world is ugly to me. They are just being unique in their own right

Being a Ssangyong car owner myself, I believe I am the best person to be reviewing such hideous brands which people of indifferent light do not deserve such a job. And I shall commence my 100% impartial review of the Roewe 550 in the next post.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Ssangyong Chairman W: The Launch

After a long hiatus during the year end holidays, it's time to return to my faithful car blog for more contributions. As with the previous article on the new Ssangyong Chairman, here are more updates to this anticipated vehicle.

I would say this car looks really handsome, and it's outer design pulls off pretty well compared to the latest Mercedes S Class. While others would say it's a total copy cat to the Mercs, I think this design is unique in it's own sense. Which car in this era doesn't have designs that coincides in some sense? I believe that although all the luxury marques each have their own distinctive styles, their body shapes are certainly starting to resemble one another. Why must people keep criticising Korean makes, even the Hyundai Genesis which I think deserves more praise than all the criticisms it gets. Speak Samsung and I think they certainly deserve more respect for all their products than we actually give them.

As for the interior of the New Chairman, other than looking a big roundish which feels inappropraite for it's smart design on the outside, the interior actually resembles the one of the S Class more than a Hyundai or a Kia, especially the centre column stack. Here's a photo for comparison:

The new Ssangyong Chairman W will be powered by a 5.0 litre V8, the largest ever produced in South Korea. It will also come in a 3.6l variant, which will reach our shores much later. The Chairman W boast massage seats, a Harmon Kardon sound system, as well as the latest technological wonder from Mercedes-Benz - the 7G-TRONIC gearbox. It also comes standard with four wheel-drive for greater stabiliy, as well as ten air bags including one for the knees. It is definitely seeking for greater competition among the luxury marques where it never once made its presence there.

As for the change of Ssangyong's logo and the name codename "W", Ssangyong is probably seeking a new re-branding exercise. Although the new Ssangyong logo looks more crisp, I actually find the stand-up logo of the Chairman of close-resemblance to that of the Hyundai Equus. Maybe Koreans just love flying objects on the bonnet of their cars.

Other than all the talk about copycat designs, this Ssangyong will make a difference to the family of cars, especially when it's two predessecors looked like scrap parts pieced together from the junk yard. Well done Ssangyong!