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Year of peaks and potholes

Mazda3 proved its popularity in 2007.

One million things on four wheels were sold for the first time in a calendar year during 2007, proving that, despite the worst efforts of the RTA and the State Government to make driving as disagreeable as possible, we remain a car-loving people.

Here's a selection of 2007 moments that linger in our memory — or stick in our craw.

 

Things happen in 3s

John Howard never noticed, but things have changed since meat pies were the national dish, Skippy was on prime-time telly and everyone drove Kingswoods.

In 2007, Australia's car was the Mazda3. Every other model among the top-five sellers relies to varying extents on fleet and rental sales. The Mazda3 is the one preferred by people spending their own money.

 

Car blanche

When the Chaser boys rolled up to the APEC blabfest in their hired limo, even Constable Helen Keller would have detected a big stir.

So what does Plod say to the bogus dignitaries (one of whom was dressed as Osama bin Laden)? “The road is yours.”

Jeez, when was the last time a NSW motorist heard such an affirmation from an armed and uniformed revenue collector whose wage we pay?

 

Oiling the wheels

Even if its diesel version hadn't won both Carsguide Car of the Year and the Carsguide Green Car award, 2007 would in many ways still have been the Hyundai i30's year.

With smart if derivative styling, a superbly effective and efficient engine, five-star safety and worry-free quality at a bargain price, it was the best car in its class this year (and the best from Korea in any year).

 

Big go but no show

Although featuring in many mags and on a hundred websites, the anticipated Ferrari F430 Scuderia wasn't at the Australian International Motor Show in Sydney.

Despite a claimed 0-100km/h time of less than four seconds, it missed its flight from Germany.

 

Flats out

The risks and annoyance associated with having to change flat tyres could be avoided if cars were equipped with run-flat safety tyres — at least, that's what BMW wants.

Against that, the best local drives we had this year in a Bimmer were in entry levels of the X3 and the 5 Series — neither of which are equipped with hard-riding run-flats.

There's nothing like a NSW road to diminish one's sheer driving pleasure.

 

Come in, spinner

When Toyota rolled out a warmed-up Aurion, we praised the world's leading maker of auto appliances for having a bit of a bloody go.

That sales of the TRD Aurion were almost immediately halted after an engine-failure scare doesn't diminish Toyota for trying when it, of all companies, really didn't have to bother.

At least this incident gave rise to the best PR line of the year.

Toyota hadn't “withdrawn” the car from sale, we were informed. No, it was being 'withheld.' Presumably for TRD polishing.

 

Blue Oval blues

The low light of a poor year for Ford Australia was announcing the closure of its local engine-making operation from 2010.

The 'grandfather's axe' in-line six that has been trundled out of Geelong since the 1960s will be replaced by a modern, imported 3.5-litre V6 — one that, unlike the current clunker, emits substantially less than 300g of C02 per kilometre. At some point, it will go into the forthcoming Falcon.

So, while the Blue Oval plays the blues, the nation's taxi drivers will be able to pride themselves on being green.

 

Safety last

Safety expert John Cadogan asserts that electronic stability programs (also known as Dynamic Stability Control) can “protect middle Australia from itself.” Essentially, it's a computer-controlled system that uses a car's brakes and throttle to maintain stability when sensors indicate that a loss of control has taken place or is imminent.

Pretty crucial, you might think. But not if you're Toyota Australia, which doesn't offer this life saver even as an option on its best-selling Corolla.

Let the market decide if it wants ESP, is the attitude. Fine — the lack of it was the chief reason for the Corolla's failure to make Carsguide's Car of the Year finals.

 

By the boatload

Unprecedented variety was laid before us in 2007, with 50 marques from 28 countries — including more than 3000 units from somewhere the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries calls 'Other.'

About two-fifths of them came from Japan. More than ever were bolted together in Thailand. The Czechs returned. China and India will soon join the fray.

The new-chum award goes to Skoda's Octavia 1.8 TFSI Elegance Wagon; a brilliant engine (good enough for Audi's new A4) and Euro status for Mazda6 Classic money.

 

Women's daze

It all got just a bit much for some of our competitors. In a radical policy shift, they went from presenting unreadably turgid treatises about cars to avoiding cars — and eschewing words — wherever possible.

At least there's still a motoring site for those who are interested in cars ... and you're reading it now.

 

 

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