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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: June’19 releases

BMW 1-series

Bart: hot

Unpopular opinion: I actually like the new 1-Series. Yes, I know the proportions are now just like any other front wheel drive hatchback and I regret that the last RWD hatchback has disappeared, but we all knew that was bound to happen someday. And the first two generations of the 1-Series weren’t exactly well-received with their somewhat awkward  proportions and the first generation’s “pig belly”, making it extra ironic that BMW is now criticized for being too generic. Granted, I’m just looking at the sporty versions with the M-sport bumpers and detailing, which while somewhat over the top are exactly what’s been working for BMW lately from a commecial point of view. I’d hate to imagine what a “lease edition”  with 16″ wheels with plastic wheelcaps and the standard seats will look like…

Kriss: so-so

Unlike Bart and many other car fans, I don’t really much care for the RWD layout of the 1-series going the way of the dodo. The heavy and space-consuming driveshaft and a longitudinal engine layout was always more a bit of curiosity and a hinderance than anything else, with few buyers even aware the rear wheels were the driven pair. So, viewed alongside its FWD, how does the 1-series compare? Well, to my eyes, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. The interior is a bit step forward for the model, but still looks like it lags behind the A-class and, arguably, even the A3. The exterior, on the other hand, is just barely OK – it looks like a lower version of the X2, and has some ugly detailing like the front grille/lights arrangement that makes it look a bit like a previous-generation Kia. So, not bad, but really should have been better.


Ford Puma

Kriss: hot

Those of you who have been following my commentary will know that I am not a big fan of the new wave of Ford designs – both the new Fiesta and Focus models look like half-baked rehashes of the previous-generation models. Not so the Puma – controversially sporting a name once attached to a small coupe (which I, personally, am completely fine with), the small faux-by-four looks bang-on with the times. Short, tall-ish and chunky, the Puma is very athletic for a small crossover, with a great profile and a rear design that is eons more stylish than its stablemates. And is it just me, or are the front lights purposefully more vertical, less horizontal than recent Fords’, to give the new Puma a resemblance to its small coupe namesake from two decades back?

Bart: hot

All the haters calling out GM for relaunching the Blazer and Trailblazer names on compact crossovers and Mitsubishi for doing the same with the Eclipse name, what do you think of Ford’s new compact crossover that revives the name of a cute small coupe of a few decades ago? I agree with Kriss that it’s not a bad move, as once again the name is used for a cute small car, but it keeps up with the times that call for crossovers across the board. Seldom have I seen a car with a happier “face” and the proportions seem almost perfect, the complete opposite of the EcoSport which looks like a twenty year old design next to the Puma. Great comeback from Ford, this thing could eventually replace the Fiesta altogether.


Kia XCeed

Bart: hot

Makes the Stonic redundant, and perhaps the Proceed as well. The XCeed is so much sexier than the existing subcompact crossover in Kia’s line-up, while the design of the “shooting brake” Proceed just doesn’t work for me in real life. The XCeed on the other hand seems to have the best of both worlds: a hint of crossover but with the sleek lines of a coupe. The only thing left to wonder is whether Kia hasn’t stretched its compact line-up a bit too thin, with the Ceed hatcback, Ceed sportswagon, Proceed shooting brake, XCeed crossover and Stonic crossover, and also the Niro crossover not much larger.

Kriss: hot

Here, I agree 100% with Bart – the XCeed looks great outside, taking up a lever the style factor in a range that wasn’t exactly bad-looking to begin with. Interestingly, to me the XCeed is also a model that shows what could have been for the similar-in-concept Infiniti QX30, if the designers had not gone to crazy with that crescent shape. Back to the XCeed, however, I think if Kia can keep the mechanical and financial package competitive, the model could shoot right up the segment rankings, especially as the interior has been usefully spruced-up, with a 10″ plus central screen. But the model does mean that Kia needs to make the standard Ceed better value, and the new Sportage considerably more spacious, if it is to maintain some semblance of separation between its models.

Kia Seltos

Kriss: not

You have to wonder how it is possible that the same company revealed, within weeks of each other, two cars that are as far apart as the Seltos and the XCeed. Where the latter is sleek, timely and desirable, the former is blocky and seemingly from a bygone era. Yes, yes, it is meant for developing markets, but you have to wonder whether the difference in tastes is really so huge that models like the Seltos have to revert looking like a second facelift of a 10-year-old model.

Bart: not

As Kriss said, this car is designed primarily for developing markets, most notably India where it will be the launch vehicle of the Kia brand. The Seltos should therefore be compared to cars like the Ford EcoSport and Hyundai Creta, and not to more stylish models sold primarily in Europe and other mature markets. Still, the design misses some refinement and originality, with the C-pillar reminding me of the Seat Arona (and that’s not a compliment) and a rear view that’s completely interchangeable with any Chinese crossover. Interestingly, the version for the South Korean market is 6cm longer than the version to be built and sold in India, but not because of regulations, as the Indian Seltos is still 32cm longer than the 4 meters that are a cutoff for tax benefits.

Opel Corsa

Bart: so-so

Let’s state the obvious: with its more wider and lower stance, the design is a huge step forward from the outgoing Corsa, which seems like it’s been on sale forever and is one of the most popular rental cars in Europe. Still, Opel remains the most conservative brand within the PSA Group and the new Corsa will be much less of a neckturner than the new 208, and I have yet to decide whether that’s a missed opportunity to add some French flair to the German image of restrained designs or if it’s a clever decision to appeal to a different crowd than the C3 and 208 attract. I have high expectations of the upcoming EV version.

Kriss: so-so

I agree with Bart, at least to a degree – the new wider, lower proportions make the Corsa look immensely better than the old, lumpy model. However, I personally don’t think it’s the conservative approach that holds the new Corsa back from being a true standout; rather, I think it’s the lack of any semi-premium features like nice LED lights, sharp creases or chrome details that set the model back from being truly desirable. Think the little things that set the VW Golf apart from its competitors. Still, with its new, lighter platform, a very interesting e-Corsa version, and an almost Saab-esque interior, the new Corsa should do very well indeed in the coming years.