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2014 San Francisco International Motor Show

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On: Fri, Nov 28, 2014 at 3:01PM | By: Jon Summers

2014 San Francisco International Motor Show

Autoshopper went to the motor show, in case you can’t get there. Here’s what we found:

• By sacrificing the free food and booze at the media launch, our man had unimpeded access to sit in whatever car he fancied, and was then able to stand back and properly appreciate their exteriors too, something which is hard to do on a public day, when there are usually too many people standing too close to the cars. That made it easy to swiftly make comparisons between makes and models.

• Even cheap cars are nice now. Leaping straight from a $100,000 Jaguar F-type coupe to a $15,000 Hyundai Accent, and judging purely from the interior, it is hard to see why you would spend an extra $85k. I repeated this exercise and from BMW 435 to Ford Fiesta SE was a similar experience. I think this means that expensive cars feel less exclusive, more mass-produced than ever, and today’s cheap cars are much better, in terms of materials and quality, than the medium-priced cars of a few years ago. As a British Prime Minister once said, "You never had it so good".

• Further exploring the bargain basement bin, Kia seemed to be pulling a bait-and-switch trick, since their “most affordable” offerings appeared in the top trim levels only—a Rio starting at a reasonable $15k was gussied up to the heady heights of $23k, which would put you into a bare bones Ford Focus ST. It seemed pointless having these cars at the show—I mean, who actually specs-up a Kia Rio with all the options ???—although perhaps not as pointless as the rep who responded to my question by explaining to me with great patience what different trim levels were “...if you spend a bit more, you get a nicer interior and those nice wheels… .

• This was disappointing really, since Kia have really built strong brand equity on the back of good products (2014 Kia Soul Review ) and have been moving upmarket in terms of quality and the size of cars they sell. All of this would appear to stand on parent Hyundai's toes somewhat. However, looking closely I realized that as Kia has moved upmarket, Hyundai has moved into different niches—e.g. the Mustang-fighting Coupe—and has put some really interesting ideas into production. The Veloster seems a genuine alternative to the Honda Civic Si, and has a cool half-length moonroof making the cabin feel airy, and a third door which opens kerbside using a handle concealed in the C-pillar. I'm not sure I like the overall result, but you have to applaud the balls of the design.

• In the middle of these price point extremes, the $48k Chevy SS I sat in did not feel more than twice as nice as the Fiesta/Hyundai, and it was a lot closer to the Jaguar than you would ever expect a Chevy to be. It seems a stick is coming next year. In the same ballpark price-wise, the new Mustang felt terribly sophisticated, perhaps too sophisticated for a Mustang, and while it felt big and heavy-shouldered, it did not have the “sitting in the bath” feeling which afflicts Camaros.

• Euro-style vans are coming to America at last. Ford have already been selling the Transit Connect for about a year, but now there is the Dodge Ram Promaster which looks like it is based on the Peugeot Boxer/Fiat Ducato. It has the footprint of a car, making city parking easy, but is sufficiently tall for me to be able to stand up inside. Equipped with 30mpg+ turbo diesels, they’re such simple, utilitarian designs I spent a few idle moments pacing around inside one, trying to think of a reason which might justify my buying one.

• In addtion to new cars, there is a Hall with restomods and tuner cars, everything from a stanced Hyundai Genesis Prada Edition to a slime-green big block ‘70 Chevelle. There’s something very peculiar and very cool about highly skilled bespoke craftsmanship being lavished on old Civics, and that these cars sitting alongside new cars at a motorshow like this is compelling, because it gets all visitors thinking about these old cars alongside the new ones they came to see. It makes everyone compare the mass-produced identical cars created for millions of people with the bespoke craftsmanship and vision of one individual which is expressed in a tuner car or hot rod.

• Despite many of the cars being worthy of comment, perhaps the most interesting experience of the day was a chat I had with one of the slinky women hanging out on the Ford stand. I was interested in this new Fiesta which can be had with a 3-cylinder turbo motor, and obligingly Ford had a little exhibition, an exploded version of the motor with real components to touch. She was hovering behind it, and talked me through it, in a rather hard to follow but extremely engaging French-Canadian accent. Rapport established, I asked her if there was one question which people asked which really annoyed her. I received an unusually unguarded response—there’s not one dumb question she hates, but rather people who ask questions to simply to disagree with her: “I just went for training in Dearborn. I KNOW there are no more Ford Rangers. It’s my job to know there are no more Rangers. But people keep telling me there are, that they’ve seen one….” .

• Ironically, in researching this article l discovered spy shots of what is said to be the 2016 Ranger, apparently it is to be based on the Edge… .

11-28 arm

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