Monday 15 October 2018

Road trip is good for soul

The versatile Peugeot 2008 was a joy to drive on a dad-and-lad holiday in England, writes Campbell Spray

The Hyundai Kona which is already assured a top-10 place in January’s sales figures
The Hyundai Kona which is already assured a top-10 place in January’s sales figures

'Dad, a road trip? I just love a road trip!" My youngest son, Marcus, was excited when I suggested he accompany me on a driving holiday.

And so it came to pass that a week ago last Thursday we met at Stansted Airport to pick up a hire car. I had flown from Dublin and he had come up by train from London where he works as an economist.

It was meant to be a bit more glamorous involving picking up a premium car in Malaga and driving over six days back to Britain. But that early idea had been kiboshed by the car company's corporate governance people who didn't want a whole lot of journalists and companions making their own way across Spain and France. The new plan was to have them driving 2,000km almost flat-out for 2ƒ days. That wouldn't either be good copy or good for our health, so we pulled out.

But not to be put off, we decided to meet up anyway and discover a part of England neither he nor I knew. So Norfolk and Cambridge it was to be.

And then courtesy of Ryanair we got lucky and that stayed with us the whole time.

My son had given me a £50 flight voucher for Father's Day and that covered flights, seat selection, fast-track priority boarding and 20kg checked-in luggage both ways. I had set aside money for car hire but I needn't have. For five days a Ford Escort-sized car cost €36.41, that's not per day but in total. However, I did also buy full insurance cover which put the total up to just short of €50.

Of course when we picked up the car, which was in fact a rather nice Peugeot 2008, the company tried to upsell to a diesel model and then one with sat-nav - which together would have increased the bill by 200pc.

I had my own navigator and his phone, thank you very much, and regular readers will know of my feelings towards diesel. With the £40 worth of fuel we filled up with before returning the car, the whole trip's motoring costs came to €100. You can't beat that and shows what is available off-peak when companies still have a lot of cars on their books and just want them used.

Driving across the Norfolk Broads, and then around the coast to Cromer for two days and on to Cambridge and the fabled Fenland for the rest of our stay, showed just what a smart and versatile car the Peugeot 2008 is and it has justly won many honours like its big sister, the 3008, has started collecting this year.

Cromer, with its wonderful pier, church and lifeboat museum, which is named after the great Henry Blogg, on the edge of the North Sea, is really worth a visit - but not in summer when it is packed so much that the regular taxi drivers won't even work.

Cambridge, of course, is spectacular. Words cannot do justice to its setting, history and grandeur. Park the car, go on a Footprints walking tour and don't forget to go to the Choral Evensong in the renowned King's College chapel. It's pretty healthy as well - on our main Cambridge day, my Fitbit showed 27,000 paces. Nearby Ely has its magnificent cathedral and Oliver Cromwell's house, both worth a visit and you can vote on whether Britain's Lord Protector was a hero or villain.

Marcus and I had real fun, got on well and had some brilliant experiences. We chatted about politics, family, love, life and the pursuit of happiness as we drove. It was a real bonding exercise. Dinner at the fabled Gunton Arms, a couple of nights above the Cromer's Wellington pub, and Airbnb at Granta House next to the Cam were all delightful.

Go on a road trip. Try out a different car, country and way of spending time together. It can be surprisingly cheap and will be worth it for all the memories.

*******

The day after coming back from Britain, I picked up the new Hyundai Kona for a test-drive. This mid-sized SUV is smaller than the Tucson and is almost the size of the old Qashqai.

My first impressions are of a superbly well-built and confident car that ticks an awful lot of boxes. It is going to do very well. It is likely to top its sector next year, like the Tucson will continue to do. Advance orders will put it among the top-10 overall cars to be sold next January.

The Kona will be followed by another SUV built on the same platform as the i20 and then even one based on the enormously successful i10, which is still the best city car on the market.

Apparently, the five-year warranty is still a massive draw for Hyundai, although owners rarely need to use it.

*******

The British Chancellor's decision to increase the tax on diesel cars from next year is welcome as it only affects new purchases and is weighted against the bigger beasts.

The owners of older diesels will be finding that new emission controls in certain cities in the UK and abroad are going to seriously impact on their desirability. We have to grasp the mettle over here. This country must not become a dumping ground for Britain's unwanted diesels.

Sunday Independent

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