don't look back in anger -- my driving wishlist for 2012
Great cars are undermined by taxes and bad driving, writes Motoring Editor Eddie Cunningham
One thing I have learned -- over the past year in particular -- is that looking back is dangerous. Your rear-view mirror is an important safety item in the car but not if you overuse it to the detriment of looking at what's coming.
So I am refusing to join the look-back-in-anger herd except to say: Good riddance to it.
By any standards 2011 was a nightmare. There are those who proclaim the one we are about to embrace will be worse. I'm having none of it.
The new cars I drove over the past 12 months varied from the mediocre to the excellent. I found them exciting in, oh, many ways, but you know what? I'm really looking forward, if God spares me, to driving some of the greatest pieces of machinery ever hoisted on four wheels.
And the extraordinary thing is most of them are. As in life, we take so much for granted in our cars. Without wishing in any way to appear wide-eyed and wonderful about all this, there is no doubt some of the technological advances leave me in awe betimes. Yes, of course, it is easy for me to say that. Yet the knowledge I can never aspire to owning some of those motoring marvels doesn't lessen the magic.
I mean, we have cars now that allow you to tell them what to do -- yes they respond to your voice. They'll turn on the radio, up the volume and (nothing's perfect) infuriate you by doing nothing -- only asking for clarification of your instruction. But they're fun.
We have cars that apply the brakes for you in an emergency; cars that enforce a pre-defined gap between yours and the one in front; cars that dim their own lights; switch from petrol to electric and back again without you noticing.
You know, when you put all these things together you get a package that, quite honestly, would have been ascribed to the realms of science fiction 20 years ago. In real terms, cars have become much less expensive when you consider what they have and what they do. But tell that to families struggling to meet tax, insurance and fuel bills.
You see, they really are that much more economical. In most cases and especially with the advent of diesel technology, they are less expensive to run. The curse is that governments keep nicking more by increasing the underlining duties.
Of course today's motors give trouble, but nothing like their counterparts of even 10 years ago. It is fair to say there are few 'bad' motors out there any more. They are, as ever, distinguished by prowess, equipment and price.
Well, that's not the full story. They are now also increasingly differentiated by the length of warranty or guarantee. There is a real, gritty war being waged on that front.
From a buyer's point of view, long may it continue.
It used to be that the Japanese were the pacesetters with a blanket three-year warranty.
Now quite a few have that. Indeed, the old two-year guarantee is now increasingly regarded as a threatened species. Many have four and some, such as Hyundai, have five-year warranties. Kia has made a virtue of its seven-year version.
When I hear that, I often wonder what we'll be doing in seven years. What sort of exotic new vehicles will we be driving then? But there's no point in looking too far forward either, I suppose.
So let's turn from the rear-view mirror and deal with just the year ahead. Of course there are no guarantees it will be any better, but we press on in hope. Ever the optimist, here's my Top 10 wishes. And, ever the realist, I doubt very much their chances of ever being realised.
1That the Government's promised major overhaul of how we tax our cars comes down on the side of greener models and doesn't stupidly do what it did in the Budget -- hit cleanest cars hardest. Madness. Please see sense. (Small chance. Hereditary short-sightedness).
2Drivers would learn how to use roundabouts and not assume they can wander like drunken donkeys all over the place. (Little hope; shocking problem; really dangerous).
3That politicians realise, despite technological advances, just how costly it is to keep a car on the road. The more frugal the motors are made the more the Government exploits the improvements. (I give up. I really do).
4Drivers would learn that the outside lane of a motorway is for overtaking only. Not for cruising along at two miles a fortnight and holding up droves of frustrated motorists. (Please, please, please. You are driving me stone, raving mad).
5People would just STOP using their mobile phones on the move. (Unbelievably widespread. Hello?).
6Drivers would stop taking a chance on pedestrians getting out of their way. (Crazy risk-taking).
7 Pedestrians would stop taking chances on cars stopping when they cross the road. (Serious).
8Cyclists stop going wrong way up one-way streets in defiance of all sense (Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr, ye scoundrels).
9Diesel comes back down in price as the weather improves. It should be considerably cheaper than petrol. (I'm hopeful).
10Most important of all. That far, far fewer families have to endure the horror of burying a loved one after a road accident. Please drive safely and carefully. Slow down, think faster.