So, it seems that we are becoming a nation of sensible car owners. Well, sensible-ish, anyway.
When I say sensible cars, I’m not talking about the sort of cars that get you from a-b; the sort that are boring to look at and boring to drive.
The “new” sensible car
I’m talking sensible as in practical. Economical. Good all-rounders.
Judging from sales figures, going down in favour at quite a rate are the traditional D-Sector family saloon cars – they are being replaced with compact MPVs, Superminis that can accommodate a football team, interesting family “Crossovers” and compact SUVs (the latter are often without a 4WD in sight). These sectors are now hotly contested by manufacturers and competition is fierce.
If a car doesn’t boast super-storage options, low emissions, a “useful shaped” (as well as decent sized) boot, a high drive height, good visibility and folding – and sometimes even sliding – seats, it just doesn’t cut the mustard.
In addition, the CO2 contest is well underway with many new cars aiming for around the 100g/km CO2 mark which helps when it comes to making savings on road tax, benefit in kind tax (if you are a company car driver) and London Congestion Charge exemption.
Fuel economies have never been so frugal – some regular engines are doing more miles to the gallon than certain hybrids.
And in general, the trend for “budget brands” is growing. Even though depreciation may well hit them a little harder, it is a fact that the cheaper the car is, the less you often stand to lose.
Consequences of the rise of the sensible car…
So, I ask you, is this good thing? Is this trend set to continue and if it does, how will it leave the fuel-thirsty sports car enthusiast? Will it become as politically incorrect to drive a totally impractical sports car? Will sports car enthusiasts be looked at in the same way as large SUV drivers and not let out of the traffic? How far can this movement go?
Yes, sometimes it can be seen that driving a hugely ostentatious car is an unnecessary display of wealth but to the person who is driving it, they do not see it in the same way. They work hard to afford it more often than not, so why not? Petrol-heads will always exist and that is that – if you feel the need for speed, then that is how it is.
On the other hand, snobbery from the large engine side of the fence is also rife. I have heard it said a few times that MPV drivers are people who have lost their motoring will to live; why not, if you need a practical family car, buy an estate car, for example?
I’ll tell you why. It is all getting back to my initial piece for http://simonscarspots.com (Vive La Difference) – everyone’s needs are different. If someone has a large people carrier then it is probably because they need one; if someone has a sports car then it is probably because they can.
Let’s not forget those amongst us who appreciate the rarer vehicles out there that are not as new –more “vintage” cars certainly aren’t likely to be very kind to the environment. Their sheer personalities make them still worthy of a place on our roads and I take my hat off to anyone who has the time, patience and indeed, money to keep one going.
Keeping motoring fun
So, getting back to the point in question: is the rise of the sensible car going to cause problems? Will people become so obsessed with practicality and economy that they could forget that cars can actually be fun?
Of course not. The more manufacturers raise the bar and give the buying public what they want, the better, in my opinion. The more money we can save on our everyday driving, the better. It will hopefully leave more money in the coffers to spend on our hobbies.
Families work so hard nowadays and let’s face it, if you are reading this, you are likely to be a car enthusiast (like me). So cars are our hobby. It sounds legitimate enough to me, anyway.
And anyway, there’s no reason that you can’t have a ridiculously fuel-thirsty and totally unpractical car for weekends – or for driving on the days when you fancy a blast.
So if – like many of us – you join the sensible car army, don’t stress about it. You haven’t become a traitor to your cause. You’re just helping out the wider cause which is to save money and get the best value possible from your everyday motoring.
Continue to do up and build cars in your garage; continue to snap some great car spots. Have fun with it all in your own time because sensible cars are here to stay.
And that’s definitely not a bad thing.
Thursday 24th of May 2012.
Its a day that I’ll not forget in a hurry, as it was the Annual Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders yearly Shin-Dig. where all the Motoring Journalist’s, Car Websites, and top Motoring Bloggers in the uk get to go to Millbrook Proving ground, catch up with the industry Pr’s and Generally having a Fantastic Day hooning around in the latest car’s, manufactures have to offer. (think of it as an early Christmas office party with cars)
This year I’d been given an invite, the brief was Simple, go and drive as many cars as I could, Meet as many People as I could, and Have as Much fun as I could,, well, I managed all three.
As there was so many cars to drive, and without the risk of boring you all to death with my Ramblings I’ll keep each car to a few pics and Paragraphs, (If possible)
Car 1: Chrysler Ypsilon
Well at £14,750 the Twin-Air is expensive for what is a small city car based on the Fiat 500, It’s Interior is the best yet from Chrysler for the European market, very functional, quite spacious, Handles well in city enviroments, suits those wanting something good looking and different from the normal contenders, I’d take a 4 cylinder model over the buzzy twin-air engine though.
Car 2: Citroen Berlingo Multispace Xtr
A car Not many people remember is still for sale or even consider as a Family runabout, But in reality the new Berlingo Multispace makes a lot of sense, Its big and spacious inside, has low running costs, Appeals to all classes of people from different walks of life, And the 115bhp turbo diesel really suits it, I drove it on Millbrooks Hill route and had quite a bit of fun with it, an underated star.
Car 3: Toyota LandCruiser V8
But I’m happy to report this is a Great Alternative to a RangeRover especially if you need 7 seats Instead of the Rangies 5.
Car 4: Lexus Is-f
An M3 Rival that delivers an awesome soundtrack, Luxury and Refinement as standard weather it be at 30mph or 130mph, It handles everything you can throw at it, City driving,,,motorway driving, or even high speed driving, at 130 mph its as quiet as a mouse but with the roar of a lion ‘Not just a rival to an M3! But a serious alternative rival to the M3′ although not everyone will agree.
Car 5: Chevrolet Volt.
The Chevrolet Volt Plug-in Hybrid with Petrol engine, or Extended Range Electric Vehicle (whichever you’d like to use) Is actually a very good car, It looks more understated than it’s Vauxhall Ampera twin brother, has a Futuristic Interior, and handled Millbrooks City course well, the power was Instant, equipment wise it has everything you’d ever need, space wise there’s more than enough up front in the rear there’s 2 individual seats but quite cramped. overal all should sell well.
Car 6: Nissan Note 1.5 dci N-Tec
The Notes not a bad car but you can see why, It’s spacious inside quite good value very frugal but very noisy
Car 7: Bentley Flying spur speed
The Most Expensive, Fastest car I’ve ever driven capable of 200mph and costing over £150,000, very very good Twin-Turbo V8 engine, despite being a big heavy car it doesn’t feel like it, did have a couple of plasticky issues on the trim and Sat-nav looked abit V.A.G inspired.
Car 8: Jaguar XKR-S
Car 9: Fiat Punto Abath Evo
Car 10: UniMog
As a Big UniMog fan from my childhood days I finally got a chance to have a go in one on the offroad course at Millbrook, 1st thing you notice even before you get inside is how massive this this thing is, you enter by climbing 3 very steep steps which once inside makes it feel like your 10 foot high and totally invincible to anything else you might encounter, In total there are 24 gears but only 8 are used for the road, the rest are all working gears (including hare and tortoise mode) top speed o a standard UniMog is 56mph.
you can adapt the UniMog to any form of working transport that you desire weather it be a snowplough, farm work, or emergency services, on the road the Air seat bounces you about the cabin at any speeds which makes for a choppy ride but it comes into it’s own off road, for going down hill there is an engine braking system that will put hill descent controls of the latest 4×4’s to shame (the UniMogs is Mechanical and not electrical)
The UniMog makes mincemeat of 1 in 3 gradient hills, 2ft8 of water and probably slow moving natives too, the UniMog is one of those vehicles thats more fun at slow speeds, then some are at high speeds.
That was my day at the SMMT at Millbrook, I’d just like to say a big thank you to EVERYONE who I had the honour of meeting on thursday, and a big sorry to all those that I didn’t