Each year tongue-in-cheek Rasberry Awards (which laud the worst movies of the year) precede the Oscars. CAR’s Top 12 edition goes on sale on Monday and, as an appetiser, Jasmine presents Part One of her biased, unsubstantiated and unscientific Bottom 12!
CAR's Top 12 is known as the automotive equivalent of Hollywood's Academy Awards. Good reading, sure enough, but what about the cars that will never make it?
Budget cars (under R75 000)
Buying any of the cheapies in this category can be likened to a trip to the dentist, getting a plumber in to unblock a drain or doing Christmas shopping for your siblings’ naughty brats. It’s a part of life and neither a pleasurable nor traumatic experience.
Hyundai Atoz. Not the last car in this list to be sunk for having a tragic nomenclature. Like one of the “runners down” in this category, the Chevrolet Spark, the Atoz has a wheezy engine and uninspiring bread tin styling (the Hyundai and Daewoo, erm, Chevrolet are not unlike Michael and Latoya Jackson – they could be the same thing). I haven’t driven the new Palio, but the old one had a dodgy reputation and bombed in the J.D. Power people’s CSI.
These models are for folks who want big car luxury items jam packed into a small car’s body, but become obsolete once your teenaged offspring have their second eat-the-house-empty growth spurts.
Kia Rio. For people who have no – or very few – expectations of their car. Nothing seriously wrong with it, so if you are willing to live with the ugly-duckling looks, bland plasticky interior and point A to B sensibility of the Rio, good for you.
Runners down: The Daihatsu Sirion’s exterior designer must have been imbibing recreational chemicals when he or she plotted that gem. Go retro if you must, but don’t change your mind and try to go for a futuristic look at the same time. What’s the deal with that huge chrome strip on the front anyway? And, the Citroën C3 is France's contribution to Tupperware parties across the globe - Vive le plastique!
This part of the cosmos is ruled by the Big Three – Toyota, VW and Opel – but there are some shockers here too.
Rover Streetwise is grossly overpriced and a good example of what happens when too many companies jump on the SUV bandwagon. Take a bland Rover 25, add hideous grey bumpers all round and raise the ride height for that kerb crawler feel and –Voila! – instant tacky posemobile.
Runners down: The Ford Ikon has Eastern origins but is more like a quicky mart tin of curried fish than a spicy briyani. The Fiat Stilo tries to be funky but literally ends up at the thin edge of the wedge. Its front end looks like the nib of a fountain pen, but the rear reminds me of one of those Hollywood wannabees that ill-advisedly opted for butt implants to mimic the J-Lo look. Sigh!
Yuppies cannot resist these expensive little toys even though they’re unlikely to ever utilise the (probably German) cars’ rear benches for anything other than steamy horizontal aerobics.
Chrysler Neon. The Neon is the Great Pretender and demonstrates why there aren’t more American cars on the road. It looks and feels unsubstantial, is a less than gleaming tribute to mass production, and is totally outmatched in this category.
Runners down: The Jaguar X-Type has been blamed for pushing the Leaping Cat to the brink of extinction. It’s a Mondeo in drag – not that there’s much wrong with the Ford – but folks expect more from a Jaguar than what the X-Type offers. Also, those who find the Mercedes-Benz C230K Sports Coupé good looking will feel different after a trip to the Kruger Park, where, they will discover, the fat black strip and red light clusters on the car’s hatch are reminiscent of the rear dimensions of an African baboon.
Sports cars are all sexy and fun, right? Well, they should be, but this is certainly not true in the case of the Smart Roadster. OK, so it looks kinda funky in a Tinker Toy kind of way but its little engine is so “pap” you'll end up dicing Daihatsu Charades... and lose thanks to a "disengage-pause-nod-engage" transmission in dire need of psychiatric treatment because it certainly doesn’t regard itself as a gearbox.
Then there's the Peugeot 307CC, which looks a like a whale with the roof up and like an art-deco bathtub with the roof down. Biggest problem, however, is that the dodgy electronics might see you driving around with a semi-erect roof... which, of course, is just simply embarrassing... And finally, there is the Ferrari 612 Scaglietti. Now, no Souf Effrican has probably driven a Scagliugly, and I read it is very good, but those awkward looks are enough to get it on my list. If cars were people, then this would be the offspring of Beyonce and Woody Allen...
In the twilight zone between the Camps Bay yuppie and the too-rich-by-half grand saloon geriatric, you’ll find the executive saloon buyers, who plump, more often than not, for German brands.
A pair of moulting cockerels, the Peugeot 607 and Renault Vel Satis serve to remind the French that they should stick to building très funky runabouts and MPV carry-alls. The former is over-ripe fromage awash with electronic gizmos that could go haywire without a moment’s notice, I’ve heard, and the latter is okay technically, but a ridiculous concept. The Kia Magentis is the reincarnation of the eighties Toyota Cressida. Let’s just hope big hair and leg warmers stay confined to the history books.
All the cars in this section are automotive tours de force and they should be. After all, you can buy houses for the money these behemoths cost. The most conspicuous of the lot is the Maybach 62, which you can park in your garage for the princely sum of R4 000 000. It could be the best car in the world, but flaunting that kind of opulence in a country where 42 per cent of the population is unemployed is just uncool.
Next week it's the turn of the Compact MPV/SW, MPV/SW, Compact SUV, SUV and Double-cab/pick-up sections on my Bottom 12 list. Until then, enjoy the ride and hope your car gets a not-so-honourable mention. Ciao, Jasmine