In the Daily Telegraph, Andrew English observed that marketing is a funny old game. “A month ago, Mercedes-Benz cited a lack of glamour as motivation for its decision to replace its innovative A-class multi-purpose vehicle with what amounts to a bog-standard (but “sporty”) family hatchback. This month Ford, which produces bog-standard sporty hatches in terrifying numbers, is adding an innovative MPV to its range.
“What’s really going on here is Ford’s attempts to keep the mills turning at full speed as Europe’s car market falls off with all the glide of a steam iron and the blue oval comes under pressure from the South Koreans. There are rumours that Ford, which hasn’t made cars in Britain for a decade, is considering closing another of its European plants.
|“Stir in sliding rear doors, sprinkle on voodoo design and send it off to the witch doctor to convince us all it’s just what we always wanted”
– Andrew English, Daily Telegraph
“So into the Romanian-built B-Max pot goes a Fiesta floorpan, stir in sliding rear doors, sprinkle on voodoo design and send it off to the witch doctor (aka the marketing department) to convince us all it’s just what we always wanted. And if we don’t, who cares? We didn’t much like the Fiesta-in-a-tent Fusion, which the B-Max replaces, either, but easy-access seating, keen prices and a high driving position found favour with the buying public.”
Sliding doors, says English, “are an itch the motor industry keeps scratching. They’re certainly useful, especially when you need to get out quickly. Freddie Foreman, the Sixties crime boss, once admitted that his favourite getaway vehicle was a stolen GPO Dormobile van with sliding doors.”
English is not so sure, however. “The passenger side-impact barge boards each side of the rear bench restrict access a little and make it fiddly to strap in a child seat. Second is a problem inherent in sliding doors, which are potentially a couple of horizontal guillotines. It’s a little unfair to pick on Ford as it has strived to make the B-Max as safe and as light as possible, but without the child locks on you can open the doors on the move and they hitch rather than lock back. So imagine the beach park manoeuvre where, ignoring the loud dashboard warnings, you creep across the tarmac with the kids in back and the doors open. Realising one of them is climbing out, you stand on the brakes. We did it and at less than 10mph, those 55lb doors slammed forward so hard the loudspeakers popped out of their sockets… ”
Staying with the Telegraph, ‘Mr Money’ Mike Rutherford picked out his best and worst value new cars.
Top of his list were the Skoda Citigo. “Will cost you less to buy, own and run than any other car bought new. Group 1 insurance, great dealers, strong predicted resale values.”
At number two, the Dacia Duster. “Has an insanely low (£8,995) showroom price for a chunky 4X2. But only when sold with a modest, ‘preacher’ specification. Looks and feels surprisingly fine, though.”
Others in his top 10 include the VW Polo, Kia Rio, Mazda MX-5, Porsche Boxster, and, surprisingly given his usual criticism of all things electric, the Renault Fluence – “Almost £10,000 cheaper than the Nissan Leaf and, in several departments, a superior product. Yours for £17,495. Renault’s best value car since the original 5.”
And at the bottom of his value for money list? Daimler’s Maybach. “I slated the company, its arrogance, its cars and its obscenely high prices from day one. Now it’s is throwing in the towel due to – surprise, surprise – a failure to attract enough customers.”
Also down there were the Lexus 600h L, and Cadillac and “all 100 per cent -electric cars with a real world range of less than 100 miles and list prices of £30,000-plus (before 5k Government grants).”
Text: CHRIS WRIGHT