Friday 22 November 2019

Progress is a mixed bag

Life weaves strange tapestries these days and reminds us how quickly time, with its up and downs, zips by. Dublin is now only an easy hour's driving by motorway from my home town. I remember it being a slog along twisty roads to make it in 1hr 45mins, maybe even two.

I never cease to be caught up in the wonder of the progress and the distance of the memories.

Fifty years ago new people began life in an old shop in the town. Fifty years.

Sixty years ago a true boyhood friend and cousin was born (of course I wasn't around!!!) But I was the other night when, across the road from each other, both events were commemorated in style.

I stepped out for a moment into the slight chill of the late night (early morning) and tried to remember what life must have been like from the stories I'd been told and pictures I'd been shown.

I did remember the fair on a Friday with cattle and sheep flanked along the paths, the Flash Bar mix of chocolate and toffee for two pence in Maggie Handy's, the chestnut pony on the Green Field, the little blue bike that was my mode of transport.

And the neighbours and friends, many gone but many still there that night to tease me about the bangers I drove -- just in case I ever (no chance) get ideas about myself driving fancy cars.

Well, the one I was driving on the night wasn't that fancy, though for many a family, especially those with small children, it offers a fair amount.

It was the Toyota Verso-S, a sort of supermini small-family carrier with a high roof and a decent amount of interior space.

Yes, this was a million miles from anything anyone could have dreamed of 50 years ago. And yet I wasn't that impressed. Is that progress or perspective?

I was a little disappointed with it on a number of fronts and impressed on others. The steering had a distant feel to it. I was constantly re-adjusting and never quite felt that comfortable with it. That is unusual for a Toyota where they normally get such things absolutely spot on.

And, being quite tall, it was subject to any sort of strong-ish cross winds. Mind you, it is a big improvement on the previous 'supermini people carrier', the super-tall Yaris Verso, which looked mighty ungainly.

Now maybe it was just me -- and the number of passengers I had betimes -- but the engine also felt a bit flat for a Toyota where some pep and zest can nearly always be relied upon. So much so I think that despite the 1.33-litre's 90bhp, maybe it needs a bit more to cope with that size of body.

Yet from a practical, people-carrying point of view it is a real candidate for the urban family because it will take two adults and three children (did I mention I had quite a few adults in this at one stage?). You will be surprised at the amount of legroom at the rear.

And it looked fine kerbside, even if it lacked cutting-edge design, the sort so popular with families these days.

The rear seating folds, if you want it, to make a flat floor, and we were pleasantly surprised with the size of the boot. It can, rather cleverly, be lowered so you can carry taller bits and pieces.

I gave up counting but there are also supposed to be 19 storage areas around the cabin.

And one of the best elements was the high seating, which not only gave me great visibility but made access and exit for passengers an awful lot easier, even in the early hours, than it is in many superminis.

Indeed I would say this is as good as anything I've had for a while on that front.

My Luna spec version had Toyota's new 'Touch' media interface. This is a new 6.1-ins touch screen which has Bluetooth, audio, iPod/MP3 USB connectivity and the pictures from your reversing camera. This is easily the best in a car of this size -- or indeed of many larger cars.

I'm not big into the techno stuff but I could follow this easily. Mind you, there is a €3,000 gap between the Luna version (€19,995) and the entry-level Terra (€16,995). I think you nearly have to go for this.

My six-speed manual version falls into the B road tax and VRT band, which is a little disappointing considering how many larger cars fall into the lower A band.

So you see, I found it a bit of a mixed bag with some outstanding elements and a few disappointing ones along the way.

Just like the tapestry that life has woven for so many of us gathered to celebrate the other night.

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