This is a report i found on the new 2004 top ten. Smart Forfour
Smart expanded the model range in 2003 with the achingly funky roadster, but what about those wannabe Smart customers wanting to take more than one friend along for the ride? Here's the answer; the rather logically named Forfour. As it says it’s ‘for four’ so if you’ve grown out of your city coupe (which follows its bigger relative’s nomenclature being dubbed the Fortwo from Smart Forfour’04) then this could be just the thing. Four doors, lots of space and that trademark Smart Tridion safety cell design adds up to a desirable package. Sharing its underpinnings with Mitsubishi’s new Colt, power comes from a choice of 1.1 and 1.4-litre petrol engines and a 1.5-litre diesel. Equipment levels will be high, with plenty of safety kit too. Certain to be one of the cars to be seen in during 2004.
Verdict: 8/10 Impossibly cool addition to the supermini segment. It's sure to be a big hit with buyers young and old. BMW 6/X3/1 Series
BMW will continue their relentless product offensive in 2004 by adding a number of new models to its line up. The striking and immensely capable 6 Series coupe and cabriolet will be available from Spring, when the X3 is also released to an eager public – like the 6 Series it’s already got a lengthy waiting list too. If you can’t quite stretch to either of these offerings BMW will introduce BMW 6 Series an all-new 1 Series late in 2004. This car will eventually replace the Compact, offering the prestigious BMW badge in a new lower price category. Details are still vague, but keen drivers will be pleased to hear that, like the rest of the BMW car range, it’ll be rear-wheel-drive. Priced higher than the mainstream hatchback competition, it’ll sell in huge numbers. Also coming are the M5 and 5 Series Touring – all in all a busy year for the Bavarian marque.
Verdict: 9/10 We're promised highly desirable cars from BMW in 2004 but be quick to avoid the waiting lists. Peugeot 407
This long-awaited 406 replacement will be on Sale
in May. With sales of mainstream family cars falling, the 407 will have to impress to keep buyers away from the premium marques, downsizing to smaller alternatives or choosing other ‘niche’ alternatives like MPVs and 4x4s. Peugeot seems to have followed its French counterparts Renault down the bold styling path, the 407 is certainly a striking looker. Peugeot 407 The saloon kicks the range off, with the smart SW (estate) following later mid-summer. Engine choice will be extensive, with four petrol choices including a V6 and two HDI diesels of 1.6 and 2.0-litres. A diesel V6 will follow. Transmissions include five- and six-speed manual gearboxes or four- and six-speed automatics. Plenty of equipment will be offered to attract buyers too, making the 407 an interesting alternative to rivals like the Ford Mondeo, Vauxhall Vectra, Mazda6 and Renault Laguna.
Verdict: 7/10 The jury is still out on the looks - bold styling a gamble in this traditionally conservative market. Ferrari 612 Scaglietti
Despite selling in tiny numbers, Ferrari will replace its 456 GT four-seater flagship in 2004 with the dramatic 612 Scaglietti. The first V12 Ferrari to feature an aluminium chassis and body, it’s named after Sergio Scaglietti - a Ferrari coachbuilder famous for creating some of Ferrari’s most beautiful creations of the ‘50s and ‘60s. With a longer wheelbase than the 456M GT, there’s more Ferrari 612 Scaglietti space for passengers and luggage inside the luxuriously appointed interior. The 6.0-litre V12 engine is a detuned version of the unit that powered the hypercar Enzo - in the 612 it produces ‘just’ 540bhp. Mounting the V12 behind the front wheels means weight distribution is excellent, this combined with clever suspension and electronics will ensure a thrilling drive. Only official photographs exist, so it’s difficult to judge the styling fairly, but first impressions are that it’s more fussy than its predecessor, though few Ferrari’s are universally praised in their styling at launch.
Verdict: 8/10 A ‘gentleman’s Ferrari’, but is that styling over fussy? Vauxhall Astra
The hatchback market will undergo tremendous change in 2004 with many new or revised models hitting the streets. This all-new Astra from Vauxhall is aiming to topple the Ford Focus off its perch as the driver’s choice. Its smart design and neat, quality interior echoes the VW Golf’s upmarket aspirations. The five-door version is launched in March, a sportier three-door following later in the year. That smart styling Vauxhall Astra is underpinned by a hugely advanced chassis; Vauxhall is determined to provide a car that is top of the class in ride and handling. Expect an extensive engine range, huge equipment levels and keen pricing. First impressions of the car have been hugely favourable, but with new a new VW Golf arriving in the UK a couple of months before it and a replacement Ford Focus later in the year, it’s going to be a tough fight for class honours.
Verdict: 8/10 New Astra looks like a winner, however the competition has just got a great deal tougher too. Aston Martin DB9
Replacing the DB7 was never going to be an easy job, but Aston Martin have managed it with this stunner – the DB9. Retaining the familiar Aston look with a contemporary twist, the DB9 not only looks sensational, but is certain to provide startling performance too. Power comes from a 6.0-litre V12 with 460bhp on tap, driving through either six-speed manual or automatic Aston Martin DB9 transmissions. Like its predecessor, it’ll be available in both coupe and ‘Volante’ (convertible) styles - the stiff bonded aluminium structure promising much improved ride and handling over the DB7. Inside is as sumptuous as you’d expect, though thankfully there’s far more space due to efficient packaging. The coupe is on Sale
in April, the Volante joining it around six months later. Sales are expected to be split 50/50 between the two models. Competition in the £100,000+ arena is going to be tough in 2004; new rivals like the Lamborghini Gallardo and Bentley Continental GT will all fighting for buyers in this exclusive marketplace.
Verdict: 9/10 Another stunner from Aston Martin. A sure-fire sales winner and deservedly so. Fiat Panda
European Car of the Year 2004 - the Panda has already had a great deal of praise heaped upon it. That’s just as well, because the fortunes of this diminutive Fiat are crucial to Fiat’s revival. Cheeky looks and epic space make for a desirable city car choice whilst mature road manners and able engines result in an unexpectedly good all-rounder. The dash-mounted gearlever and Fiat Panda high seating position make for an easy driving environment, equipment levels high and safety equipment plentiful. The five-door launch version will be joined later in 2004 by a sportier three-door variant, while a ‘mini SUV’ and a cabriolet are also in the pipeline. Refinement and quality is high and it has to be said, the Panda is an appealing sub-supermini contender. Fun to drive, cheap to buy and well specified, the Panda is a tempting proposition – look out for it early in 2004.
Verdict: 8/10 A deserving choice for the prestigious European Car of the Year 2004 award. Maserati Quattroporte
Under Ferrari’s control, Maserati has flourished. The wickedly fast and full of character GT and Spyder being joined by the Quattroporte in 2004. The name quite literally means ‘four-door’ in Italian, so there’s no mistaking what it is. Aiming at fat cats bored of their ‘benzs and Beemers, this beautiful executive stormer offers 400bhp from its 4.2-litre V8 and soul that has its German rivals utterly licked. Serious pace is Maserati Quattroporte assured, the Quattroporte bound to be an entertaining drive; clever ‘skyhook’ suspension meaning it’ll cope with high speed cruising, back road thrashes and town driving with aplomb. Inside, it’s beautifully appointed whilst outside the design harks back to Maserati saloons from the past. A confident move by Maserati (given the tiny volumes it’s expected to sell) but we congratulate them for bringing some much-needed passion into the luxury saloon market.
Verdict: 8/10 Beautiful big Maserati might only sell in small numbers, but we admire it tremendously. Volvo S40/V50
Volvo’s S40 goes on Sale
early in 2004, the estate V50 version following it later in the year. Based on the underpinnings of the next generation Ford Focus, the new Volvo is a revelation on the road. Never has a Volvo been so surefooted and agile. The interior is nicely appointed, neat touches like the ‘floating’ centre console a novel touch that has the benefit of increasing stowage space Volvo S40 too. The engine line up is extensive, the T5 version a real ‘Q’ car, with its effortlessly rapid performance and discreet looks. Despite the Volvo’s new found agility there’s no compromise in the ride, the S40 cosseting as well as all its premium rivals. Great specification, quality and refinement, smart looks and an enjoyable drive mark this out as Volvo’s finest car to date – it’s so good you wonder if anybody will buy the more expensive S60.
Verdict: 9/10 Good looks, decent performance and a cosseting ride. Mainstream and premium rivals should be worried. Volkswagen Golf
Okay, so it’s hardly revolutionary in the looks department, but it’s still got that solid, quality look and feel that few, if any, rivals can match. It may appear almost identical, but the reality is that the latest Golf is almost entirely new; only a few engines and transmissions carried over from the old model. The engineers have worked hard to make sure that it drives as well as the competition too and they’ve been successful. Volkswagen Golf This the first Golf in a while able to match its contemporaries for driver enjoyment. Elsewhere it’s more of the same; the smart interior remains - albeit with a few iffy plastics creeping in though it’s still leagues ahead of some of its mainstream rivals. Various models in its class have been striving to match the Golf’s interior since the last car was launched – with a new Focus and Astra coming soon they might just have had enough time to catch up.
Verdict: 8/10 Smart looks inside and out – but is it all just a bit too predictable. Competition will be tougher with new rivals due soon.