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Way back when...March 1996

I'm back after a short hiatus, and so we move into 1996.

The cover story for this March issue is about the new Mitsubishi Lancer. This may be a bit foreign to you folks, but in Evo terms, it spawned the Evo IV. Apparantely in family car form it was a rather popular vehicle too, quickly becoming Singapore's best seller shortly after it's launch.

You can also note the 'World Exclusive' drive of the Subaru Impreza rally car at the bottom. More on that later.

Short previews of the cars launched at the Detroit Motor Show 1996. Aston Martin marked its return to the Stateside market with the DB7 Volante.

A couple of badge engineered cars make the news too at Detriot. Toyota decided to slap on a Lexus logo on their Landcruiser and call it the LX450. Other than the new luxury interior, you couldn't tell the difference apart from the badge.

The other 'crossover' is Cadillac's Catera, which is basically an Omega with a different grille and lights. Built in Germany and imported into the States, I don't remember this being an unqualified success. They clearly haven't remembered the Cimarron from about a decade back.

Briefly, there are talks that Volvo are planning an SUV to compete with the upcoming offering from Mercedes-Benz. It was rumoured that it could be built in the States too.

The cover story of the Mitsubishi Lancer is featured. It reports that it is a marked improvement from it's predecessor in terms of safety equipment, driveability, space and most importantly, value. A full review will come in an upcoming issue.

The Honda Legend is next. A really dull looking car, it makes up for it by being luxuriously equipped and having a really smooth and quiet ride. Still, nothing to shout about. Boring.

Finally, the Plymouth Prowler. A really bold concept that harks back to America's hot-rodding days, it seemed to serve no real point. Chrysler 'expects it will spark a big resurgence in street rodding with the likelihood of rival car makers scurrying to get similarly conceived cars to the market as quickly as possible.' Yeah, right.

The Mercedes Benz C180 has been replaced with the C200, after complains that the C180 wasn't 'quick enough' in terms of acceleration. Well, it seems that the C200 doesn't really fare much better.

Comparision Test
The Renault Espace goes up against the Honda Odyssey (Shuttle to you folks) and Toyota Previa in a people carrier shootout.

While the Previa's bold, curvy style trumps the more conservative Espace and Odyssey, the Honda beats them for performance, with the Espace underpowered and the mid-engined Previa too heavy.

All three fare decently in the ride and handling department, with the Odyssey the most car-like to drive. The Frenchie though, as is typical, has the best ride quality among the trio.

Inside, where it matters for MPVs, the Honda is the big winner, with it's car-like interior and above average equipment level. The Espace is the most flexible but loses points for being only being able to seat six (as oppossed to seven for the other two) and its awkward driving position. The Previa's strengths are its size and spaciousness, but it looks too dull and being too big means that it's like driving a van rather than a car.

Overall, it is the Odyssey that come out tops. The Espace seems a bit too dated against it's newer rivals, and the Previa is much too van-like to drive.

Lexus plans to tackle BMW with their GS300, and style-wise it certainly does stand out, with its sleek, rounded shape. This, however, robs precious rear headroom due to the sloping roofline. It also falls short in many other areas, namely ride (too fidgety), handling (not quite on par), and very poor boot space. That it is a decent performer is scant consolation.

Mercedes launched their 'Kompressor', or supercharger, in their C230, giving it better performance. Certainly it was a success, and the Kompressor quickly got applied to many other cars in the range.

The best selling cars in Singapore in 1995 are revealed, with the Mercedes Benz E200 (W124) taking tip honours for the second year in a row. A real stunning achievement that will probably not be seen again.

A world exclusive first drive of a Group A Subaru Impreza rally car, which had powered Colin McRae to his world title. It wasn't the exact car, but it was quite close in specification.

A phenomenal experience for the lucky journalist. A special section of highway was closed specially for this test. The car is ridiculously quick, really a handful to drive but overall a really incredible experience. It's quite hard for me to sum up here, but if there's a way to reproduce the report in full it makes for quite a good read.

The Fiat Punto GT Turbo, boldly claiming '0-100km/h in 7.9 secs!' A rather nippy car in its day definitely.

I'm fascinated when I see a car on sale in places you don't expect or realise. I remember being chuffed when I saw the last model Laguna on Neighbours as I wasn't aware Renault sold their cars there.

Back in the 90s Singapore's car market was fairly saturated, with all sorts of makes and models available as our economy boomed.

Sometimes I do these reports, and wonder what happened. SEAT, for example, are no longer sold here, which is quite a pity. Fiat also had a short hiatus in the early 2000s, before returning in recent years. Still, the market here now is dominated by the Asians and premium Germans (BMW, Merc, VW, Opel), with exotics filling up the rest, whereas a decade ago we even had the likes of Holden, Lancia and Rover (though we all know what happened to Rover).

This post has just reminded me that I saw a Prowler recently - they look brilliant, totally different to anything in the UK.

My mate Big Shaun used to have the Proton Persona badged version that model of Lancer saloon. There's also an EVO IV that belongs to someone near where I live.

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