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Gert Wisse (Netherlands)

My judgement is based on following grounds:

Alfa Romeo Giulia

The Alfa Romeo Giulia puts the brand back on the map. Developed from scratch the Giulia shows that Alfa Romeo understood where it came from. The result is a typical, sexy looking Italian sports sedan. That not only goes for the spectacular Giulia Quadrifoglio but also for the every day models, especially the Veloce. The Giulia is everything a car enthusiast can ask for. With great looks, lots of character and powerful engines. The Giulia is a typical Alfa Romeo that adds something good to the class of the premium sedan such as the BMW 3-series and Jaguar XE. And it has the quality to rightfully be in that segment.
Road holding and driveability of the Giulia are very good thanks to an outstanding chassis. The setting of the springs and dampers is just right. It`s not so hard that it ruins comfort but at the same time it is stiff enough for a sporty, demanding driving style. Thanks to the fact that it is rear wheel driven there is an absolute lack of torque steering. And speaking of steering: it steers very precise and accurate. You can point the car precisely where you want it with lots of ‘feel’ in the steering wheel.
Engines are all (very) powerful for a car in this segment. They all react lively on movements of the throttle. Fuel efficiency of the petrol engines could be better but is still decent enough. Room in the back is more than decent, as is room in the boot. Which makes it a nice, practical family car. Safety spec is up to date.
The price range in which this car operates is absolutely justifiable thanks to its solid finishing of the interior and the refinement of the engines. It is good to see an all new competitor in the segment dominated by the BMW 3-series and Audi A4.

 

Citroën C3

The Citroën C3 operates in the very busy B-segment, which means to succeed you need to come up with something that stands out and offers great value for money. The Citroën C3 does both. With its fresh looks that are similar to the successful C4 Cactus there this is no dime a dozen. Well done Citroën! It also ticks quite a few boxes when you judge it by what it has got to offer: a sharp starting price, it is a practical, sensible family car, it’s comfortable and it comes with clean threecylinder engines. And best of all, the Citroën C3 comes with many safety features from which most come as standard.
Having said that, there are also some small issues with the C3. The strongest of the threecylinder engines lacks of power – which means the less powerful versions deliver even less. Mind you, we tested the car under Dutch circumstances where the land is as flat as a pancake. The gearbox shifts not as smooth as we are used too from PSA products. Like many cars these days the Citroën C3 too suffers from poor visibility to the back, caused by huge C-pillars.
What is interesting is that the C3 can be equipped with a dash cam that constantly films the last minutes of your journey. Handy in case of an accident. With that footage you may be able to proof your innocence and / or get your insurance money easier. In a time where traffic gets more and more crowded not such a bad idea that deserves to be recognised.

 

Mercedes Clase E

Mercedes-Benz has raised the bar again in terms of active safety. The safety systems now available on the new E-Class are very impressive. The E-class is capable of (almost) steering itself. And it does that in such a manner that you always feel safe. The downside is that it will take you several days to understand the many systems and to use them efficiently. Having said that, it’s the next step forward to an autonomous driving car. This car is already capable of parking itself without any one actually sitting in the vehicle. That may seem like a nice gimmick, but it does show how far Mercedes-Benz is in terms of technical development. Same goes for the intelligent head and tail lights and a clever system that prevents your hearing from damaging in case one of the airbags goes off (with a loud bang!) during an accident.
On the inside the E-class shows lots of comfort and refinement. The used materials are of very high quality, the seats are very comfortable, there is more then enough space. But that’s what you may expect from a car in this price range. Despite the many systems and equipment this E-class offers, Mercedes managed to keep operating the car rather simple. After being used to the many functions that are available, they are easy to operate by using a push/turn button and buttons on the steering wheel. Not new, but is handy and clever.
The ride is one of great comfort. Especially the air suspension with its state of the art airbody control deserves a big compliment. It’s like sitting on a flying carpet.
Engines are good too with a hybrid version to keep pollution to a minimum. Fuel efficiency for such a big car is good. Is the E-class worth its money? Yes, it is. But more important: this car shows us what smaller, more affordable cars will have as safety features in the years to come.

 

Nissan Micra

The Nissan Micra is a big step forward compared to its predecessor. It looks are far more mature both on the inside as well as on the outside. One of the main attractions of the Micra are its extensive safety features for a car in this segment of the market. You can even equip it with a 360 degree camera which makes life easy when it comes to parking or leaving a spot where visibility is bad. Speaking of which: visibility to the back is rather poor due to large C-pillars and small windows, so it is a good (necessary?) thing you can order that smart camera.
Another very strong point of the Micra is its fuel efficiency. During our ANWB test we scored a average of 20,1 kilometres to the litre with the 95 bhp strong threecylinder, which is very good indeed. No need for the manufacturer to claim an even better figure (1 to 23). On the downside: the car is rather noisy. There’s quite some wind and tire roar. There is limited room on the backseat.
With its competitive price it is a good addition to this part of the market. Its main unique selling point is an important one: the standard safety systems not only make it great value for money, but also a good car for families with a small(er) budget.

 

Peugeot 3008

One of the best things of the Peugeot 3008 is without a doubt its beautiful interior. The minute you get into the car you feel you are entering something special – as if you are sitting in a car from a premium segment. You can see and feel it by the use of the various materials and the eye for detail when it comes to shaping the knobs and buttons for instance. The piano-like buttons on the centre of the dashboard is something I’ve never seen before. A premium car for the price of a normal SUV means good value for money.
Just like smaller Peugeots the 3008 comes with a very small steering wheel. Peugeot claims it helps you keeping control over the car better than with a normal sized steering wheel. To me it mainly is a harmless gimmick, though there is one advantage: you do have better sight on the gauges. Speaking of which, they are fully digital which means you can project other info too, such as the navigation system. It is safe to have that right in front of you. Being a French car you might expect this car to be very comfortable and it is, though on small bumps it can feel quite harsh so there is some room for improvement there.
And the powertrains? They are good – including a threecylinder engine - but there are some small issues. The reaction time of the automatic gearbox is on the slow(er) side and fuel efficiency of the 1.6 petrol engine is not what you expect from a modern SUV in this segment of the market. Which is a pity because in terms of elasticity and power the 1.6-engine is lovely.
An interesting idea is the fact Peugeot can equip the car with a foldable bicycle to use for the last hundrerds of metres of your journey. Parking these days is often a problem in commute areas so it’s good that Peugeot thinks about solutions. And it is a solution that is good for your health too!

 

Toyota C-HR

What great value for money! With a starting price in the Netherlands of 25.000 euro’s you get a lot of car for your money. And with that price it’s very affordable. Being a cross over it offers what lots of people want these days: individual looks, a high sitting position and enough room. Toyota managed to give the C-HR buyer all three. Its looks are standing out with all its lines, round shapes and sleek roof line. You might expect little room on the backseat but there actually is more than enough room for a car in this segment. On the downside: the C-pillars are very wide which causes very poor visibility to the back – which is less safe. Furthermore it feels cramp in the back – though it actually isn’t – because it’s very dark caused by the small windows.
One of the strongest points of the C-HR is the extensive standard safety equipment you get on every C-HR, especially considering its price. Toyota understands that safety to people is only important as long as it comes as standard. Many customers don`t wan to pay extra for it. The safety features work well and are easy to operate.
Engines are clean and the hybrid version is very clean indeed. Coming from the Toyota Prius it`s no surprise the powertrain delivers both decent power and extreme fuel efficiency.
Is it a good looking car? Well, let’s put it this way: it is different for sure and the sales figures in The Netherlands are good so people apparently appreciate its looks. The sleek roofline does however has one disadvantage: it reduces room in the boot.

 

Volvo S90/V90

After many years there is a big Volvo limousine again. And big it is. As a rival to cars such as the Mercedes E-Class and BMW 5-series it needs to be seriously good. And it is. For starters: it has the looks only the Sweeds can pull of. It is unmistakeably a Volvo, with its calm, yet contemporary lines and cool looking headlights. The stationcar looks even more typical Volvo with its long roofline.
The interior is a lovely place to be. It is up there with it’s beautiful upholstery and premium usage of materials. The best part of the interior is the 9 inch central display that operates like your tablet at home. Because it is so easy to operate it means you can keep your eyes on the road more than you can with many systems from the competition. It also means that there are actually just a few additional buttons on the dashboard, which makes the car easy to operate.
The car handles like a limousine. The ride is very comfortable, especially if you choose the air suspension. It corners nicely, though you can feel that it first and for most is a long distance cruiser that takes you on long journeys in great comfort. Volvo chooses to only mount fourcylinder engines: two diesels and a petrol engine. The smart power pulse system on the D4 diesel that takes away any turbo lag adds to the refinement of the engine.
Just like the Mercedes E-Class this Volvo S/V90 is capable of (almost) driving itself. It does that in a very calm and confident way, thanks to the autonomous adaptive cruise control. Being a Volvo it is not a surprise that safety on this car is outstanding. In this class it is all about refinement and eye for detail. With the S/V90 the Sweeds have shown us they understand that and given us a great, comfortable and very safe car. The Volvo S/V90 feels like the ultimate butler. It always delivers but never shouts about it.