1994 in motoring


1994 in motoring

United Kingdom

British Aerospace sold the Rover Group to BMW and the changes have already begun, with three of Rover's oldest nameplates being abandoned by the end of the year. The outmoded Maestro and Montego ranges have been shelved, while the Metro no longer exists in name but the car itself has survived a major facelift to be sold as the "Rover 100 Series". The new car is more competitively priced than its predecessor, and indeed most of its competitors. There is a new 1.5 diesel unit on offer, but the 1.1 and 1.4 petrol engines are carried over from the Metro. Its low price and running costs compensate for the lack of space and equipment that some of its rivals already offer.

Despite the takeover by BMW, Rover's next generation 400 Series - which goes on sale next year - will be a clone of the upcoming Honda Civic, while the new 200 Series will be the first in-house Rover design since the 1984 Montego.

Ford has pulled the plug on Granada production after 10 years to make way for the new Scorpio. It is styled like nothing else on the market, with a front end reminiscent of the classic American Edsel and a rear end which is quite unlike that seen on any other production car. The estate version, meanwhile, maintains its predecessor's inoffensive rear end styling. Power comes from a slightly lacklusture 2.0 16-valve unit; the 2.3 16-valve and 2.9 V6 units give much better performance. The interior is comfortable, well-equipped and spacious, setting new standards in the affordable executive car sector and giving Ford something like a credible BMW rival.

Vauxhall has replaced the long-running Carlton with the all-new Omega - the latest model to adopt a continental Opel nameplate. Like its predecessor, the Omega is a large rear-wheel drive range of saloons and estate. Interior space, stowage space and comfort are all very good, while the rear-wheel drive chassis ensures impressive refinement without giving it an overly sporty edge. The 2.0 16-valve and 2.5 V6 petrol engines offer adequate performance, but the 3.0 V6 unit is one of Vauxhall's best-ever powerhouses with impressive performance and excellent refinement. The top-of-the-range "Elite" model is so far Vauxhall's best answer to the BMW 5 Series, though it lacks the exclusivity and driver appeal which make the 5 Series the success that it is.

Germany

Audi has canned the historic 80 nameplate after 22 years for the launch of an entirely new compact executive saloon - the A4. Available as a four-door saloon (with "Avant" estate versions to follow), the A4 is a stylish, comfortable and smooth-riding cruiser with engines ranging from a relatively underpowered 1.6 to a swift 2.8 V6. There is also an impressively refined and quick 1.9 turbo-diesel which produces more power than just about anything else with a similar capacity. First impressions suggest that the A4 is the nearest yet that any competitors have come to emulating the success of the BMW 3 Series. And with a more competitive asking price, the A4 could yet be the car that overhauls the 3 Series and takes pole position in its sector.

Volkswagen has finally launched an all-new Polo, 13 years after the second generation version went on sale (though it was facelifted four years ago). The new Polo is based on last year's Seat Ibiza, using the same chassis which ensures impressive ride and handling for such a small car. Power comes from the ageing 1.3 unit as well as a 1.6 from the larger Golf, though the older engine will soon make way for the Ibiza's 1.0 and 1.4 engines as well as a 1.9 diesel (turbo or non-turbo). To cater for markets where hatchbacks are less popular, Volkswagen will also be selling the Polo as a saloon and estate. The hatchback is at long last available with five doors, which finally puts it on a level with the likes of Renault, Fiat and Peugeot.

Italy

European Car of the Year for the 1995 model year is the Fiat Punto, successor to the long-running Uno and in many ways the most impressive mini-car on sale. With its distinctive Giugiaro-penned exterior styling, spacious interior, highly competitive pricing and good equipment levels, the Punto looks set to dominate Europe's car sales charts for the rest of the decade. Its 1.1, 1.2, 1.4 and 1.6 petrol engines offer good performance and economy, while its 1.7 turbo-diesel unit is economical but has a relatively heavy feel. The forthcoming cabriolet is an almost unique offering in this size of car.

Alfa Romeo has shelved 33 production after 11 years and introduced two all-new cars as its successor. The 145 is a distinctive three-door "bread van" hatchback which has the appearance of an estate, while the 146 is a sportier-looking five-door "fastback". These distinctive models are the first phase of a regeneration of Alfa Romeo which is planned to restore its desirability by the year 2000, and regain its position alongside the likes of BMW as a producer of desirable and sporting cars.

Eastern Europe

Last year's takeover of Skoda by Volkswagen has seen the Czech marque feel the first real benefit of its new ownership. The Felicia is a heavily facelifted version of the 1988 Favorit, with better equipment levels, improved build quality and a more enjoyable driving experience, but maintaining the original car's highly competitive price and running costs. The existing 1.3 unit is joined by a 1.6 petrol and a 1.9 diesel engine which are also found in the Volkswagen Golf, Volkswagen Polo and Seat Ibiza. The five-door hatchback and estate bodystyles remain, and offer almost unbeatable levels of practicality and comfort for such a low price.

ee also

*1993 in motoring - the previous year
*1995 in motoring - the next year


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