New years honours 2018

What a year 2017 has been. Some launches, some vehicles with a difference and now to the top three.

The Almost Ran

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There are things l like and then there are a few things l really dislike. I’m talking about the Fiat 124 Spider.

Compared to the Mazda MX-5 that it shares its platform with, it is more expensive. What’s more, the engine needs you to work it to get the best from it. The Mazda (in 1500cc form) was on the boil all the time and the MX-5 is cheaper and with the limited slip differential that Fiat only gave you on the Abarth 124, it made the handling safer and more surefooted.

What l can’t forgive it though is Fiat using the MX-5 dashboard. Such a silly mistake to make. And lazy too. Even the fitments of a different facia binnacle would have been better than this.

So how has this made it into the almost ran if I dislike it so much? I’d go out and buy one tomorrow. Unlike the MX-5, it is dressed in a very stylish suit that makes you look back and admire its style. Admittedly the handling is more twitchy and it’s this that makes it more alive and risky. Get some rear end out action going to work and you can wait until lunchtime before your first coffee. It’s the adrenalin rush it gives you.

And the dashboard? When you’re going fast, you don’t look at it anyway.

And so to my top 3 of 2017.

Dacia Duster. £ 14,990

It’s cheap and cheerful execution actually made this a joy to have for the week. What’s more, it’s an SUV and yet l don’t really like SUVs. Certainly not faux SUVs in 2 wheel drive form anyway. So what is it doing on my New Years Honours list? Its looks are a bit like an estate car and l like estate cars, they ooze practicality. The Duster though is available for not a lot more with a proper 4 wheel drive system. Win win.

New engines available have also made it reach up to today’s standards of performance and economy. Just as it’s about the be replaced by a new model, it was given a brief new lease of life.

There is nothing pretentious about the Duster in any way even in the midrange Lauréate trim level. And yet what surprises, is the way it was put together. Admittedly it isn’t even up to Renault’s standards of today and yet that’s OK.

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It’s a Dacia, It’s no-nonsense transport for you and whatever you throw at it. At this price, you will throw everything at it without a care in the world. Not because you won’t actually love it, you will. It will do all that is expected. It’ll be because it feels it can just handle it.

Ford Mustang Convertible. £43,095

Again this is another car that exudes a bit of cheapness. It’s not up to European standards. The fit and finish inside aren’t as tactile as in the new Fiesta and yet for about the same as the highest spec Focus RS, give or take £6000, you get a V8 muscle car with a retractable roof that can light up the tarmac without too much of a problem.

It’s also a car to pose around in. The V8 under the hood rumbles away like a good old Yankee V8 should except this time it’s not as bad for the environment and now fitted with green bits like catalysts and an engine management system keeps tabs on the nasty stuff that comes out of the back. Your grandmother will love it.

Ford thankfully have addressed the rear end and made it a little more acceptable to European standards. It’s now all multi-linked with wishbones and anti-roll bars of a sort and manages to go around corners albeit with a little naughty fun if you so wish it to.

It also has those classic Mustang looks. It makes the car unmistakable from any angle or in any light. You can never mistake it for a…There you go. There is nothing that looks like it apart from an older style mustang.

What is not to like? The Ecoboost engine that’s what. Avoid it. No one wants to hear a muscle car sound like a Fiesta.

Alfa Romeo Giulia Voloce. £ 39,205

What a car. A car that pipped my proposed number one from the entire list that we had back in the summer. It did everything right. Then we got the Alfa Romeo. And this isn’t if l am honest the best car overall that we tested this year. It is, however, the best driver’s car, with the best seat in the house. It’s so good, that I had to put £30 of my own money into the fuel tank. I couldn’t stop driving it!

Every so often some manufacturers allow their engineers to forget the bean counters and go against the tide of normality to make a car that is available for every man (or woman) to be great to drive. It’s a car that puts the driver first. It isn’t cheap, then again it isn’t the most expensive of the drivers’ cars out there. You’ll be needing deeper pockets for something similar from BMW or Audi.

Stories will unfold about the thing breaking down and it will have its faults. If it didn’t then it wouldn’t be an Alfa Romeo. A car company built with passion over precision of the finer things like a stupid switch working with fluidity. Passion isn’t built into a car, it comes from within. You just can’t manufacture it in a laboratory. It makes you spiritually aware. It has a human touch and quality to it.

The Giulia is a return to form for Alfa Romeo that hasn’t been seen for over 2 decades. The crime is it shouldn’t have happened in the first place so this return should be celebrated and for this l award it THEGAYUK car of the year 2018.