During 2007, 65 new cars appeared on the European market. Three stand out from the crowd for their originality, style and verve
Issue 15-16, December 2007 – January 2008
by Dimitar Nedelchev; photography by FIAT, MERCEDES, RENAULT
Although we pay a lot of lip service to "green" solutions and champion the use of bicycles to reduce the effects of global warming, the motor industry doesn't seem to feel the heat. In 2007 alone 65 new models debuted on the European market. And this number doesn't even take into account the myriad modifications and upgrades of older models. The coming year promises to continue this trend.
Most of the new ones are destined for short-lived use, only to be replaced by fresher makes and eventually forgotten altogether. The vast majority will live on only in the archives of the engineers who created them. Posters of these cars will not adorn teenagers' bedroom walls, nor will they enjoy the status of rare collector's items.
There is an exception to every rule, however. The year 2007 witnessed the debut of three cars that have transformed the industry so radically that these models will likely become nothing less than "cult classics" in the years to come: the Fiat 500, the Mercedes-Benz C-Class and the Renault Laguna.
THE FIAT 500
What is so revolutionary about this remake of the legendary Cinquecento? If Fiat's plans pan out, in the next few years you can expect to see the roads filling up with these cars. The Fiat 500's major plus is that it has done away with all the typical minuses of a small car. It comes equipped with all frills and extras usually reserved for luxury models: a navigation system, leather interior and an iPod docking port built into the car stereo. Add the five-star safety rating from EuroNCAP and multiply that by the manufacturer's assurance that the Cinquecento conforms to all safety standards to be adopted over the next few years, and you've got one little gem of a car.
Its small engines are economic (1.3-litre diesel 75 bhp, 1.2-litre petrol 69 bhp, and 1.4-litre petrol 100 bhp) and - most importantly - it conforms to even the strictest ecological requirements. The Fiat 500 comes with a five-year or 500,000 km (310,000 mile) warranty, and those without an advance deposit can take advantage of the "500Cents" payment plan, paying five euros a day until the full sum is paid off. The other option is the "50to500" plan: put down 50 percent when you buy the car, then pay off the balance two years later.
The Cinquecento has one fundamental drawback that even the most imaginative manufacturer would have a hard time overcoming: it's nearly impossible to squeeze more than four passengers into this little vehicle.
70 years ago, on 10 March 1943, Bulgaria's pro-Nazi government decided to defy Berlin and halt the deportation of Bulgaria's 50.000 Jews. This was down to the actions of one man - Dimitar Peshev. Just two years later he faced Communist justice and found himself on trial for his life. His niece Kaluda Kiradjieva remembers