Tag Archive | "city cars"

Small Is The New Big

If you are fans of the author Lee Child’s thrillers featuring the character Jack Reacher, you will be excited to learn that a silver screen adaptation will soon reach a multiplex near you. Avid readers will know that Jack, at 6’5”, is one massive, muscular dude. It therefore comes as no surprise to learn that the studio has cast the not-so-youthful Tom Cruise in the leading role. Tom, you will remember, is not noted for being especially massive, slightly lacking as he is in the area of extreme tallness, for example: but you never know. He’s a quality actor, so perhaps he can carry it off.

It’s the same with cars. Take the Fiat Panda. This is a small, trendy car clearly destined for the city and is, like Tom, easy to park in a confined space. Yet the canny buyer knows that a 4×4 version exists and it is a mini revelation off road. It sits a little higher than its towny siblings but that, and the fact that it has a diff-lock, are the only differences yet the car really delivers when the going gets gnarly. In other words it is capable of something it wasn’t considered suitable for. Meanwhile Arnold Schwarzenegger insisted on buying a hairy-chested but utterly pointless Hummer to drive around Los Angeles; a motor which in the UK would require a parking space the size of the Isle of Wight.

The point is: if something doesn’t look fit to do the job, can we necessarily assume this to be the case? The universally loathed Lada Riva of historical notoriety was shockingly awful but its cousin the four wheel drive Niva – in many ways also shockingly awful if we‘re honest – was like a tough little mountain goat when taken into rough country. Diminutive city cars have shown that they are perfectly capable of long arduous trips which they were not allegedly designed for, whilst Range Rovers have had in the past a reputation for being a bit sensitive and temperamental in the electrical department.

So, does size matter? Do we care who actually plays Jack Reacher as long as the movie is good? No, of course not. If we can take Keira Knighley as a pagan warrior queen then we’ll not worry too much about Tom as he leaps up to punch foul villains on the jaw.

What you should take from this is that when buying a car, appearances can be deceptive. Because a vehicle looks rugged and smokes Marlboro, it doesn’t mean it is what you need to the job. For example, there’s a trend just now to buy butch 4×4 pick-ups with huge chromium roll bars and many lights.

People! Hounslow is not in Arizona! You do not live in the outback! You do not need ‘roo bars! These trucks are workhorses; they are not for outings to the seaside. They are mostly fitted with leaf springs at the back to support heavy loads and this will bounce your passengers around until they are overcome with nausea. Just like the movies, when it comes to buying cars don’t let appearances deceive you. Good things can come in small packages. Just ask Mrs Cruise. Actually; no. Don’t.

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In Praise of Small Cars

As you probably know, it all started back in 1959 when the original Mini first burst onto the motoring scene. What a revelation it apparently was. Here was a car that could carry four, park on a sixpence (old coin – don’t worry about it) and be repaired using only Meccano and the interior parts of an old sofa.

It set the tone for the future of motoring and the more time has progressed the more compact cars have become. It’s interesting that, despite the many improvements in automotive technology, nobody has really bettered that old original car for sheer smallness. Some have tried and generally failed. The present iteration of the Mini is vast compared to that tiny predecessor, but in the main, manufacturers fit a great deal into small packages.

The Ford Fiesta is a case in point. It’s bigger than it used to be but contains vastly more technology than the original version. It is also more frugal and actually looks far more expensive than it actually is.

Meanwhile, over at Citroen, the DS3 is gaining popularity faster than Nicole Scherzinger when all the boys thought she’d left that Hamilton chap. This diminutive car has somehow developed a personality that appeals across the board. It can be configured in many ways and thus becomes all things to all buyers.

There are city cars that rival the Mini of old but because of the bewildering array on offer don’t somehow seem to have that same appeal. They are economic tools for town driving and public interest doesn’t really extend beyond that. Yet these little marvels are capable of much more. Most of them can hold their own on the motorway and are perfectly able to manage distance work. In short, they are underestimated because the manufacturers don’t really push all their virtues.

Polo’s, IQ’s, Swift’s, 500’s, i10’s, Fabia’s and even Granddad’s favourite, the Jazz, are all cracking cars in their own right. All manufacturers have a small car to call their own and now Vauxhall are getting in on the act with the funky new Adam. Ideally, they’d have a chosen a different name but that’s a matter of personal choice.

The Adam is likely to take the market by storm, given its modern chic looks. Build quality looks to be superb. The variation options are called Jam (trendy), Glam (luxury) and Slam (sporty); so presumably the names were chosen whilst under the influence of an hallucinogen. This small car is designed to rival the Mini and aims to really push the boat out as Vauxhall are claiming that it would be possible to order over one million trim and colour combinations, which seems excessive and is likely to inspire some weird and wonderful choices. Still, Vauxhall won’t concern themselves with resale values but they have promised to ensure that customers don’t go too mad. Illuminated starlight interior roof panel anyone?

So, overall, the small car is king. Long may it reign.

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Drivers Reject Excess For Simplicity

If you regularly read the motoring press then you’ll know that there has been more than a hint of a change in new and used car buying behaviour. We’ve alluded to it here on Motor Blogger a few times before but this seismic shift seems to be taking hold.

Motorists have had enough. No doubt it is driven by the cost of fuel and insurance and not helped one bit by European over-regulation, but drivers simply can’t hack the pain any longer. Sales of budget cars are on the up and up as buyers realise that they can do without many of the expensive extras appearing on cars today.

Coupled with the need to counter the rising costs of car ownership, there is also a burgeoning rebellion about the technology built into cars. Car makers have now excelled in making vehicles that are smart, safe and reliable and they have left themselves with nowhere to go. Their answer has been to start loading on the goodies.

We’ve been here before. Think about the rise of the Smartphone and all that comes with it. There is a movement away from this sort of complexity as phone users dig out old models because, really, all they want to do is talk, send texts and save a few quid. Obviously, business users can find a use for the many functions, but otherwise? All sorts of technology has been built and sold to us, nor because we want or need it, but because it can be done. This in turn fuels the geek mentality as people rush out to buy the latest thing – whether they need it or not!

So it is with cars. Manufacturers keen to sell more new cars are constantly adding luxury items. A new survey of motoring organisation members shows that a very large majority would be happy to do without electric parking brakes and electric seats, for example, if it saves them money. All these things make the cars more lardy and costly.

So, for beleaguered drivers everywhere, it is back to basics time. Out goes the fancy trim and incomprehensible ‘infotainment’ system and in comes small, frugal cars without all the chintz and leather. Sales of new city cars and their slightly bigger siblings have shot up exponentially and this trend is also being seen in the used car market as second-hand buyers reject luxury for convenient, simple motoring.

Clearly there will always be a market for fully loaded and luxurious cars. Not everybody is feeling the pinch but, as the Dacia is about to prove, people are seeking another way. There is even talk that the mighty Tata organisation is looking to perhaps build a version of its ridiculously cheap Nano for the European market. Refined it may not be but when it comes to a question of cheap transport or no transport at all you know which way the vote is going to go.

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