Tag Archives: Daewoo

Korea shall inherit the Earth…..

2 Nov

From this......

.....to this

*N.B. I’m going to just blaze straight through the division between North and South Korea for ease of writing. I appreciate that this is politically and geographically ignorant…..

Time was when all Korean cars were, to quote a phrase, “f**king awful”. In the 90s there was a seemingly endless barrage of horrible-looking, horribly-named, drab, dreary, awful, terrible cars that emerged from the teat of Asia’s eastern breast (am I going to get murdered for saying this? Keep an eye out for me, Readers!). Some names come to mind at this juncture: the Kia Pride (setting yourself up for a fall there). The Daewoo Nubira. The Hyundai Atoz. The Ssangyong Korando. Are you enjoying this little trip down memory lane? Me neither.

Whatever you do, take Pride. Or not, as the case may be.

The image conjured up in my head when I think about this veritable chamber of horrors of the automotive industry is similar to the image I see in my mind’s eye when I recall Kieslowski’s great movie A Short Film About Killing – I just picture a lot of grey, various barren landscapes and some dead people. The Korean car industry in the 90s and the early part of this millennium was, frankly a joke.

Korean car industry circa 1997

But something weird has started to happen. Korean cars have started becoming…..OK. I have a mate who drives a 2005 Hyundai Getz and it’s pretty good. The interior plastics don’t feel like a BMW and it’s not the quickest car I’ve ever been in, but it does its job as a small hatchback remarkably well, without making my friend, or me when I travel in it, want to kill ourselves. More recent offerings are even better. I did some work experience for a big UK car magazine and they were good enough to let me have a runaround in the new Kia Piccanto and I have to say, I had a cracking time in it. I mean, the 3-cylinder engine was a bit comical – it sounded like a V12 heard from about a mile away – and the steering and brakes were both over-servoed, but it was a hoot! At the Frankfurt motor show in September, the Korean cars all looked excellent, even the Ssangyongs, despite the company’s crappy, depressing stand. The Kia GT concept? As good looking, I would say, as Jaguar’s C-X16 concept. The Hyundai i40? Looks to be a great real-world alternative to a Mondeo (although you have to say, Hyundai have shamelessly aped Ford in improving their brand, which is no bad thing).

Picanto. We like.

i40. We also like.

One must assume, then, that Korea are just going to keep moving up in the car world in the same way as Skoda have done, until they are perfectly viable options, not just for cash-strapped pensioners, but for everyone. Carficionado might even end up buying a Korean car one day – and that will be a world gone topsy-turvy! Not only that, but what nation is the most advanced on hydrogen fuel-cell technology? That would be Korea. Get ready, dear Readers, to see them become a really, really dominant force in the car industry.

Pininfarina’s 80th Birthday

18 Jun

Pininfarina, or Carozzeria Pininfarina (it just means coach-builder) to give the company its full title, is 80 years old this year. The Italian design firm have used their pencils and French curves to come up with some of the most uniquely desirable automotive shapes of the 20th Century (and a few of the 21st). However, they’ve got a few skeletons in their closet. So behold, my Top 10 Notable (for better or for worse) Pininfarina Designs.

1. Alfa Romeo Giulietta Spider

The achingly pretty Giulietta Spider of the 1950s became one of Alfa’s most iconic cars. Let’s consider the case of Federico Fellini. The great Italian director cast Sandra Milo, Anouk Aimee, Anita Eckberg and Claudia Cardinale in his films. He also drove a Giulietta Spider. Is that enough of an endorsement?

2. Ferrari 250 GT Cabriolet

By no means the most revered variant of the 250 (that accolade surely goes to the 250 GTO), Pininfarina did however create one of the prettiest incarnations in the 250 GT Cabriolet. Delicious clean lines, delicious Italian GT car.

3. Peugeot 504 Coupé

Also designed as a cabriolet, I prefer the beautifully purposeful styling of the coupé. It has a suavity and elegance which I find totally irresistible. Merveilleux!

4. Ferrari F40

Creating this car in the same year as they created the Peugeot 405 (go figure), Pininfarina were asked by Signor Ferrari to create something earth-shattering to stamp his marques’ dominance before he died. It was the last car to be commissioned by Enzo Ferrari and proved itself to be quite a swansong.

5. Hyundai Matrix

Well, they couldn’t all be teary-eyed and rose-tinted recollections on Pininfarina’s glory, could they? The other day I passed a Hyundai Matrix in the street and was shocked to see that distinctive squiggle down the side of the car: “Pininfarina”. A boon for Hyundai then, but I personally couldn’t see any redeeming Pininfarina features on the car. The best you could say about it, I suppose, is that it looks European. In a sort of 90s way. Not their best.

6. Peugeot 406 Coupe

In my opinion, though, the Peugeot 406 Coupe was one of their best. A strikingly elegant design, not entirely dissimilar from Pininfarina’s design for the Ferrari 456, it embodied that 1990s French boldness and optimism, along with TGVs and those aerodynamic cycling helmets. Considering the car that it was based on, Pininfarina executed a fantastic design for the 406 Coupe.

7. Rolls-Royce Phantom Drophead Coupé

I’m not entirely sure how this qualifies as a coupé, other than the fact that the top’s been coupéed off it. But lordy, does it matter? This is the sort of car that is so beautiful it makes you feel like someone’s punched you in the sternum. There is a total rightness to the design, that look of powering swiftly and strongly into the future. May have caused the recession though.

8. Daewoo Lacetti Sedan

OK, clearly whilst simultaneously designing the Ferrari Enzo, Pininfarina had to give their interns something to do. “Go and design some Daewoo” they said, giggling. And so they did. And it looked like this. Pretty woeful stuff really. Only accolade is that, now under the guise of being a Chevrolet, it features as Top Gear’s ‘Reasonably Priced Car’. Replacing the Suzuki Liana. That’s about as prestigious a provenance as it deserves.

9. Maserati Birdcage 75th

I hope that this car will one day translate into how every car looks. Built, by deduction, 5 years ago to honour Pininfarina’s 75th anniversary and the name harking back to Masaerati’s famous ‘Birdcage’ racer of the 1960s, the strikingly futuristic design must have seemed like a very nice birthday present indeed!

10. Hafei Zhongyi

So, shall I end with something nice or nasty? Well, not to discredit Pininfarina, whose brilliant work I thinks speaks for itself (ignoring the fact that I just wrote about it), but sometimes you’ve just got to laugh, like looking back at pictures of some of the less attractive women you’ve dated. I know nothing about this car, or rather van, other than the fact that it’s Chinese and they presumably didn’t give Pininfarina a particularly large design budget. Pininfarina, you’ve made some exquisitely, dazzlingly, spell-bindingly good looking cars. But this isn’t one of them.