Thursday 25 May 2017

In a two-car race the Rio gets my No 1 vote

IN a year of elections it is always good to try to upset the odds but the Continental Irish Car of the Year voting had no Frontline moments. It was more a case of withstanding pressure as the very small pool that is the Irish motoring scene was infested with suicidal piranha-like creatures willing to bite their arms off for a vote.

Does it matter? Well, yes, if the public is served well, and this time I think it was, mainly by the fact that Korean manufacturers feature so prominently and their superb warranty deals have put pressure on others to deliver. Beyond that, it was easy to dismiss certain cars on the shortlist. I didn't like the Honda CRZ when it was launched and still don't. Surprisingly the next to go was the Kia Picanto. Not because it isn't great value -- with features and at a great price -- but because the luggage capacity and ride were not as good as they should have been. The Mercedes CLK had to go next. It's gorgeous, fast and a really fun two-seater. But we are picking a car of the year and not my fantasy.

Alongside it went the Ford C-Max. It still isn't as good as the S-Max and the seven-seater version wasn't on the short list. Top of the bottom five is the Mercedes-Benz C-Class coupe. With lower prices, better economy and spec it's hard not to like it but it's still not a COTY.

As a default position it would be easy to go straight in and plump for the Ford Focus. There are years of development here which have made it a past winner and even finer car now. It drives perfectly but despite some massive advances in technology for its sector it is more a continuation of something tried and tested than a brilliant new car. So out it goes.

If I had only driven the Range Rover Evoque as a three-door version it wouldn't have come fourth. But as a crossover with all the attributes of a world-renowned brand it really is something special. It deserves to do well but go five-door, the other is looks over practicality. It was easy to put the Peugeot 508 in third place mainly because of two better cars. But it is a superb executive car absolutely crammed with stuff and style.

So that brings it down to two Koreans. The i40 is a beautiful car which should really help Hyundai claim its "affordable premium" status across all sectors. It is an executive car that is especially smart and practical as an estate. It also has that massive five-year triple care warranty that is hard to beat especially for business and private users. It is a car I would be proud to own.

Yet the Kia Rio is the car which was more of an overall winner as it had total appeal across all ages and sectors.

It has room and style and is stuffed with spec and safety. I can see myself recommending it again and again -- and with that seven-year warranty I might not even be around in this job to hear any complaints.

I hope that, as usual, my selection isn't a kiss of death to the Rio's chances.

CAMPBELL SPRAY

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