Over to Belfast to drive the new upper-medium sector car from Chrysler – the Sebring ( see our review in Roadtests).
It seems that our friends from North America will accept any quality if it is home-made, but if it is from Europe, Japan or Korea, then they expect much more.
The Sebring interior is not brilliant – the materials and fit and finish are not “European”. We recently drove the Sebring’s brother, the Dodge Avenger, which looks more dynamic than the Chrysler, and appears on paper to be better value. But as a spokesman pointed out, it is aimed at a different type of customer.
The upper-medium market is already overcrowded and another contender won’t help the situation. With more to come, things are going to get really difficult, even for the well-established players.
The Sebring is full of goodies, but a Volkswagen diesel-powered 2.0-litre costs around £19,000, so isn’t cheap.
CAP Monitor predicts a future value of £5,100, or 27% of cost new in three years/60,000 miles.
On the question of what happens when the divorce comes between Mercedes-Benz and the Chrysler Group, Steve Gray, marketing director of Chrysler Group in the UK, told us it is business as usual and did not expect any changes, or a move of office. Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler would continue to work together and R&D sharing will not change. It will be interesting to see if he is right.
Mitsubishi sent up a iCar – a mid-engined, rear-wheel drive city car which will challenge the smart fortwo.
The iCar is fully-loaded: four-speed automatic gearbox, alloy wheels, electric windows, remote locking, air-conditioning – the list is endless. There is only one model and only one price – £9,084.
This car is targeted at large conurbations so if any leasing companies put any on the fleet, the best place to sell them will be at large city auction sites and well away from the countryside.
I really enjoyed driving it but I have to take into account the neighbour and supermarket car park syndrome – no favourable comments from anyone.
But with only around 300 units to sell this year, Mitsubishi shouldn’t be too worried about the man-in-the-street research in Yorkshire.
The £35 road-fund-licence did, however, appeal to my neighbours.
Seems to be Mitsubishi week –first the i-car and then over to its design centre near Frankfurt to have a look at its future lower-medium car, the Lancer.
The all-new Lancer will be launched at the end of this year as a saloon, then a hatch will follow in summer 2008.
The extra-hot Evolution X will appear in the spring next year and there will be a good choice of petrol and diesel engines. The styling is good, the interior has a prestige feel and Mitsubishi is talking about Mazda3 money.
It says the main competitors will be Saab 9-3, Alfa Romeo 159, Volvo S40 and Subaru Impreza, but it is more likely to entice some drivers out of the more mainstream cars such as Focus, Golf and 307.
This is Mitsubishi’s first real contender in the fleet market in this sector for some years, if you can include the not-so-popular Carisma – an ironic name for a car with little in the way of charisma.