Thursday, 22 July 2010
Road testing cars for The Motor used to be objective. “Put yourself in the mind of a buyer,” they told you. It wasn’t a bad rule, ignored now by self important hacks who tell you what they think. Their experience can be sketchy. Mine was once.
It’s not always easy pretending to be a buyer, so I am being one. I am shopping for a replacement for the Terrano. Not just yet maybe. I bought it because I thought it would last a long time. In 12 years it has only done 70,000 miles because it I mostly drive other people’s cars. It could last a lifetime. It has been the most reliable car I have ever had.
The Terrano may be noisy but it is strong. I got it to pull number two daughter’s horsebox. No longer a cute teenager, more a yummy mummy, she is very green. She and Adam will borrow it for a holiday. Grand-Teddy will be safer in the big Terrano than in their little Clio. It may not go with her greenery unless she counts it recycled, which saves the planet making another one.
While I am making up my mind I can test cars subjectively. I can be myself. No more mealy mouthed objectivity. Here’s what I really think. A BMW X1 would be nice. It would pair up with my Z3 (see above). UK X1s are all diesels, which is fine; I like diesels. And I would want an automatic that is agreeably smooth and quiet with plenty of torque for overtaking. So far so good. The X1’s accommodation is fine and in theory would fill the bill, but the cheapest is £23,000. Four wheel drive, Sat-nav and leather upholstery lifts it into 3-series territory close to £30,000. It has 3-series underpinnings although 1.5cm narrower, there is not much room in the back and not enough for the dogs in the boot.
I didn’t find the steering crisp enough and the ride is turbulent. The wheels bump thump into potholes and steep cambers throw it off course. The inside is gloomy. It may be good quality stuff but is a bit severe I do like some luxury trim.
You spend a long time looking at the facia and it may be businesslike and efficient but it’s dull. The X1 is well proportioned from the side but upright and abrupt in front.
Road performance is exemplary. The X1 whisks along quietly, the 6-speed gearbox shifts seamlessly, it does 45-50mpg, so the 61litre (13.4gallon) tank would take you half the length of the realm, which I like. So, the X1 is worthy but not, I think, for me. BMWs should have charisma and this hasn’t. I suppose I am really looking for an estate car, 4x4 not really necessary in Lincolnshire, good ride essential, road noise unacceptable, probably diesel automatic with space for two Labradors.