juez

Stèphane Meunier (France)

My judgement is based on following grounds:

Alfa Romeo Giulia

A new Alfa Romeo is always a mix of hope and fear. And from a design point of view, the Giulia is not exactly what I expect. The famous V shape grille and tensions are not enough, elegance is also required. But as always it is a matter of taste. Interior is more convincing even if quality still needs to improve compared to german rivals. But none of them can provide this special latin atmosphere (warm colors, litheness of lines…). Alas IHM is not perfect (to say the least) and modern features quiet a let down. For sure, the Giulia is for the drivers not for the geeks. Going back to a new rear wheel drive platform, this Alfa then provides an ultra direct steering and a very agile handling. It behaves more like a compact than a family car. And Safety on road is never a concern (as long as you don’t play too much with the DNA switch) and comfort is surprisingly smooth and refined. Something the germans need to learn. Automatic ZF gearbox is very well calibrated and the gazoline 200 hp engine my favorite. As always, we had some disparities between the different Giuila we drove but the 3-years warranty is a reassurance.

 

Citroën C3

I like that the new C3 keeps most of the C4 Cactus design assets. But using them its own way, with a little extra breadth, it looks more solid which is very clever for a small car. Personalization -if not new- is very complete and upper interiors trim are both original and eye-catching. Some plastics do need a soft finish but overall built quality is okay for the segment. IHM is also convincing even if the central digital screen responsiveness could be faster. New C3’s comfort is for sure at the top of the category and do not prevent for a good handling which appears to be agile enough and very safe. But steering consistency must be improved. Safety equipments are up to date while an active braking system thru video is coming in may. Diesel are very sober but Puretch are not as efficient as in a 208, despite a similar weight and SCx. And price/equipments ratios are fair as long as you do not pick up to many optionnal cosmetic items. It good to see Citroën finding its way back to where we expect it.

 

Mercedes Clase E

The new E-Class is a better car than its predecessor. I learnt it from the several laps I had on the Mortefontaine track and a pleasant driving on normal roads around the facility. Unfortunately, despite several demands, I am still waiting for Mercedes to provide a test car to deepen these impressions. Also, my trusted road testers at L’Automobile Magazine warned me that the E autonomous driving promises cannot be taken for granted as they had experienced it. Just hope the new E-class customers will not be let down in a similar way.

 

Nissan Micra

Considering the former Micra, this 5th generation is a revolution. But considering today competitors, the new franco-japanese small car is not a breakthrough. Styling is both dynamic and unique, personalization is incredibly high (125 possibilities) and cabin presentation and trims are very rewarding. IHM is okay even if the reactive digital screen should have been elevated a little. Also electronic devices are plenty and, sometime, unique in the segment. But features like Active Trace control or Active Ride control are here to compensate an old -and cheap- Nissan V-platform not to enhance a modern one. Also noises and vibrations are not tamed enough and riding his not smooth enough for a small car, especially compared to the Citroën C3, Renault Clio or even the soon-to-be replaced VW Polo. Feeling is that behind a flattering modern make-up, the Micra is too much of an old chap. Also this Nissan which actual production has just started -with sales by end of march- should have compete, in fact, for the 2018 COTY election. So against the coming Ford Fiesta and VW Polo.

 

Peugeot 3008

I often wonder why so many customers want SUV that are taller and heavier but not roomier than their Estate rivals and
less enjoyable to drive with higher TCO. But I must admit that with the new 3008, all these arguments collapse.
Handling is so brilliant that it beats several regular hatchback, steering is almost perfect and behavior at the limit so forgiving that you don’t believe it is 1,84 m high ! Also riding is very good for that kind of bulky vehicle (but avoid the useless 20’ wheels). As are diesel and gazoline Puretech fuel efficiencies. Cabin quality has risen but the very sophisticated dashboard styling brings some tricky fittings which are difficult to maintain when sales -and so production- are booming like it is today. But the 3008’s IHM/dashborad is so ahead of its time, so clever and so natural and easy to use every day that I don’t mind if a millimeter is varying between plastic parts. It is also a great lesson to improve safety as, unfortunately, more and more people cannot stop phoning/texting while driving. I just wished that Peugeot did not went that far with exterior styling, mingling boldness with overdesign.

 

Toyota C-HR

New C-HR is not only a brave car (concept, styling, dashboard…) it is also a very competent one (ergonomics, improved trim quality, connected features…). But C-HR is clumsy and not roomy while rear visibility is very problematic in every day life. For sure, driving is diverting and handling on par with many european offers (not granted for all the Toyota available in Europe). But, added weight in comparison with the last Prius and tweaked settings make the Hybrid C-HR more noisy and much less frugal than the sedan. I rather advice the smaller Turbo version. And prices to be more friendly. Because pragmatism is not C-HR core value.

 

Volvo S90/V90

The S/V90 are half a surprise but still a good one. Half a surprise because they are so close to the XC90 -last year finalist- it is like driving it again. But with less inertia and wrapped in much sleeker way, not difficult considering the cubist SUV. Volvo Estate are also part of the french car culture and it is great to see them updated this way. Also, the new PowerPulse device on D5 diesel gives a very welcome extra punch without compromising fuel efficiency. And comfort, quality and trim are superb. But the Swedes just forgot that the French are not paid in dollars or pounds.