Buon giorno! I'm currently in Rome visiting my family. It's my first time in Italy--my first time in Europe actually. Looking around Rome, I realize how far behind we are when it comes to urban planning and design (not that it takes much to top our metropolis). All the buildings around here are designed in such a way that there's a uniformity of style (like Tokyo), but they are still distinct (unlike Tokyo). The rustic design of the buildings complements the ancient ruins scattered around the city.
With every new place or city I visit (and there have been plenty of new city experiences since I joined Top Gear), one of the first things I try out is the food. Here, it's:
and of course:
And then there are the cars. The Italians have a love affair with the petrol engine that is evident in their passion for motor sports and their fiery sports cars. There are a few familiar faces here, but plenty of the brands are homegrown or European: Fiat, Lancia, Citroen and Smart. Toyota has an ubiquitous presence with its Aygo and IQ small cars. The Germans are represented by BMW and Audi; Benz sells plenty of A-Class cars, but not much else except for a smattering of E-Class and S-Class sedans.
Overall the Italians have good taste in automobiles. The cars they choose are small, design-oriented, have good-looking interiors, and many have manual transmissions--this usually means they like driving. It’s not long before I found some cars that I longed to see and drive. Each day I would photograph a car I like. Here is the first batch of cars that I want to share with you guys.
1. Alfa Romeo 159 – The 159 is classified as a compact sedan although it looks bigger on the street. It certainly looks meaner in metal; the pictures hardly do it justice. The Giorgetto Giugiaro-penned body has a face that grabs your attention by the collar. There’s nothing in our local market that can compare to this kind of subtle aggression. Inside, the instrument panels are angled towards the driver, reminiscent of how BMWs were before they went the iDrive route.
2. Alfa Romeo MiTo – This cute Alfa Romeo falls under the subcompact category, and it's only available as a three-door hatchback. Its name comes from its two cities of origin, Milan, where it was designed; and Turin (Torino in Italian), where it was built. The design is said to be based on the Alfa Romeo 8C Competizione, a limited-edition sports car and considered a high point in Alfa Romeo design--a bold claim when you consider how much Alfa invests in its vehicles' style. I wish Alfa Romeo would make a comeback in our market (with a more responsible distributor this time), but I’m not sure if our market will appreciate the cars.
3. Audi A2 – I saw this odd subcompact Audi roaming the streets of Italy. Honestly, I don't even remember that there was an A2. It certainly doesn't look like any of the modern Audis because none of the current Audis look like shrunken minivans. However, despite its friendly and unexciting look, the A2 does look clean and balanced. It also used plenty of aluminum in its body, resulting in very good fuel economy ratings. The A2 wasn't considered a success in Audi's books, with the Mercedes A-Class outselling it by a wide margin. But judging by the number of A2s I saw on Roman roads, it seems the A2 is good enough for the Italians' book.
4. Ford Ka – Based on the Ka's looks, whatever Ford designers are doing with the brand's Kinetic Design philosophy, they should keep it up. The Ka is like a smaller and much cuter version of the Fiesta. At this size it might be too small for the Philippine market, but we’d love to see Ford give it a try nevertheless. And while we're dreaming, can we have the 1.3-liter TDCI engine?
5. Toyota iQ – I know the Prius isn't exactly flying off the dealer showrooms (come on guys, it's a cool car), but the fact that Toyota brought it in dared me to hope that they would make another product leap of faith--and this time I hope it's the iQ. It's a three-door hatchback that incorporates everything Toyota knows in how to make the smallest car possible with the most interior space. The result is a city car that's only marginally bigger than a Smart Fortwo but can seat four. Note that I didn't say four comfortably, because I suspect the rear seats are only for people going to Mordor to return the one true ring. If Toyota can price this right for our market (which I realize is next to impossible), it will be the coolest city car in our country.