The world’s automotive markets are as diverse as ever, with regulation driving the portfolio as much as customer preferences. Europe has been a zealous driver of electrification, and ultra-rigid fuel economy requirements have continued to favor smaller cars than U.S. customers would care to look at. Following is an overview of the most interesting cars to be launched in Europe in the 2021 model year—those that we don’t get:
Window Shopping: Best Older European Cars
European buyers have a couple of fresh choices: first Audi’s Q2 was facelifted in the autumn, and now February 2021 will see this updated SQ2. Fitted with a 2.0-liter TFSI that makes a nice, even 300 horsepower, it packs as much luxury and performance into the compact-crossover body style as possible, even including an optional Bang & Olufsen sound system. The cute, inconspicuous little Audi can charge along the autobahn all day at a (governed) 155 mph.
French carmaker Citroën is back in all its glorious weirdness, and the most recent example is the C4, a compact crossover that looks a lot different from any conventional offering. The chiseled lines hide an ultra-futuristic interior with glass surfaces, digital effects, and ’80s-inspired seat patterns. This front-wheel-drive car comes with a choice of a gasoline, diesel, or electric powertrain; you can even get a manual transmission.
French luxury is back: DS, the upmarket Citroën spinoff, is launching a sedan called the DS 9 that’s a quintessential car for French government officials. It comes with a conventional or a hybrid powertrain, and the interior features wonderfully quirky art déco elements. It won’t go far in markets such as Germany, where large sedans are far outsold by high-powered station wagons.
This “supermini” from the Romanian subsidiary of Renault is not exactly a cool car. But it is pretty awesome to get a brand-new, decent car for just over 7000 euros (about $8600) before sales tax. For that kind of money, you get a 65-hp three-banger, no air conditioning, and no radio. Add a few thousand, and you can get those extras plus a turbocharged three-cylinder with 90 horsepower. And there’s a crossover version that adds unpainted cladding and a bit more ground clearance. Basic mobility is still cheap in Europe, although it may not stay that way: An EV’s battery pack costs more than an entire Dacia Sandero.
Older Cars You Can Finally Import in 2021
Genesis G70 Shooting Brake
The Genesis G70 is one of our favorite sports sedans. When Hyundai’s premium brand launches in Europe in late 2021, the Old World will be treated to an especially interesting model: the G70 Shooting Brake. It’s a legitimate alternative to the Audi A4 Avant and the BMW 3-series Touring, but it looks sportier than either. We mourn a loss, too: It looks like the manual transmission is gone with the G70’s facelift. So the perfect one, a manual Shooting Brake, will never be built.
Hyundai i30 N
The aggressive and affordable Hyundai i30 N enters the next level with an extensive facelift and a new, optional eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. Power rises to 280 horsepower. We have driven the previous i30 N, and it has former BMW M honcho Albert Biermann’s handwriting all over it. He moved to Hyundai a few years ago and quickly advanced to become global head of engineering, and the i30 N is one of his pet projects. This car is as good as the Volkswagen GTI—perhaps better in some ways.
Land Rover Defender 90 Turbo-Diesel
Diesel scandal or not, the oil burner remains wildly popular in Europe, and its benefits are felt nowhere more than in a heavy off-roader. Massive torque and very reasonable drinking habits make the 3.0-liter straight-six a far better choice than the four-cylinder gasoline engine or the complex and heavy hybrid gasoline straight-six in the Defender lineup. The diesel is available with 200, 249, or 300 horsepower; make ours with steel wheels and the six-passenger configuration, please.
Peugeot 508 PSE
The elegant Peugeot 508 gains a top-of-the-line model with the PSE, available both as a sedan and as a station wagon. It’s fitted with a 1.6-liter turbo and plug-in hybridization for a total power output of 360 horsepower, and the car’s character is decidedly sporty. It’s no M3, but the electrified powertrain fits the modern appeal of the 508 exceedingly well.
Suzuki Jimny Commercial Vehicle
The lovable and capable Suzuki Jimny is the world’s smallest real off-roader, far from a car-based SUV. European fuel economy regulation has killed it off even though demand was through the roof, so it returns in 2021 as a commercial vehicle. Almost nothing changes, but the rear bench disappears in favor of a larger trunk. And the Jimny gets Europe’s “e-Call” cookie; we would prefer to do without this monitoring device.
Volkswagen Arteon Shooting Brake
VW’s flagship, the Arteon, gets two upgrades in Europe that won’t be offered in the U.S.: it will come with an upgraded 320-hp engine and sporty enhancements as the Arteon R—and on top of it, VW offers a Shooting Brake version that adds practicality and style. The Arteon R Shooting Brake looks great, and it rules the left lane with a 168-mph terminal velocity.
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