Saturday 16 December 2017

Wheeling in the year

Sparks will fly: Nissan's Leaf, the top electric car, which goes on sale here next year
Sparks will fly: Nissan's Leaf, the top electric car, which goes on sale here next year

Just because it's the new year doesn't mean I'm going to go all soft and charitable. 2010 was a rotten year for so many -- so so many -- I felt sometimes like I was cheating on them by driving and writing about new cars.

I have sat behind the wheel of dozens and dozens and dozens of sparkling models, but I have seen the faces of those in their 10-year-old motors in the dim and dusk, rain and wind. They haunt my 2010 rear-view mirror.

So, if you think you are going to get an upbeat, drive-by-the-seat-of-your-pants overview of a year, I'm sorry, but I don't think anyone deserves that.

Now, don't get me wrong, I love driving. Absolutely adore it. Every car is a challenge, a thrill and, in some ways, a disappointment.

God, when you see those new videos of new motors you'd think you'd have to polish the backside of your trousers to be worthy of sitting in them. It can often be such a comedown when you see them in the flesh/metal.

There are exceptions, of course, with Jaguar's XF and XJ, two of the most memorable and uplifting interiors in mainstream motoring -- the sort that takes you out of yourself and permits temporary gloom amnesia.

Okay, I suppose that, smattered between the dark clouds, there were glimmers of positives, and maybe we should dwell on them to give us hope for the New Year.

First off, the scrappage scheme provided everyone with a lift, even those who could only think of buying. It was strange really because it helped change mindsets. All of a sudden, especially after 2009 (Bah, humbug to it too) buying a new car with a 2010 registration wasn't viewed as flaunting it like a Merc-cocooned politician.

Secondly, the trend towards smaller cars and especially lower emission diesels continued.

You'd be really surprised at how fuel efficient they can be.

And thirdly, there was an appreciable pick-up in the gallop towards electric cars.

By far the best of these was the family hatchback from Nissan called the Leaf which goes on sale here next year.

But, as is the case with all electric vehicles, the persistent difficulty of limited range hangs over them like a four-year plan. Yes, of course, there is reassurance that there will be charging points, and of course, range varies according to how you drive and of course, they are improving the capacity of batteries to hold more and drive you further than ever. However, there is still some way to go.

And we had better get it into our heads that electric cars are not, never have been and never will be, of much use to a lot of people. They will mostly suit those who undertake reasonable commutes and those living in short-run city environments. So let's not condemn them as irrelevant nor praise them as the Holy Grail. They are neither. But they represent a sustained attempt at getting somewhere.

Just like the cars we caught glimpses of at motor shows all year. What an extraordinary array of imagination those cars of the future represent. What a totally different world they so hopefully herald. All shapes and sizes, full of optimism that electricity and water will propel the vehicles our children and grandchildren will drive in the decades ahead.

City cars, crossovers, motors driven by a combination of energies all light up the road ahead. Some are not really on the signpost they are so far away; others direct us with the hope of arrival.

Their world is a long way from this Christmas for so many who will have to make do with what they have for the foreseeable future.

For some, however, 2011 beckons with anticipation: they will be driving a brand new car. More luck to them and safe driving to us all. Maybe by this time next year we'll all be looking in the rear-view mirror of 2011 and feel we've driven through the worst.

Indo Review

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