Seeking insight, your correspondent gives the BBC a punt. He’s both impressed and unimpressed by what he discovers.
The car magazine I usually buy has given up on price lists so I had to get the Top Gear 2016 New Car Buyers [sic] Guide. That should be buyer’s guide (the guide of one buyer) or buyers’ guide (the guide of lots of buyers). In no particular order I gleaned some new received wisdom.
Before I launch into that, I am in the position of having to find my own car news. Car and Autocar’s content is not sticking in my mind after I read it. I don’t feel I know the state of the car when I read Car anymore. I feel I know only about driving an expensive car somewhere photogenic. Automotive News is good for nitty gritty industry news but not car reviews. So this Top Gear New Car Buyer’s Guide was a chance to quickly find out what this pillar of the automotive news world thinks we should think. I view it as a chance to see what the mainstream is thinking. What is it thinking?
It’s very nicely laid out, one finds. The graphics are really calm, like Car magazine circa 2001 and that’s a compliment. However: the important cars that people already buy and know about get big panels and the cars people don’t buy get little panels, just to reinforce the trend. This is all the Guide says about the Peugeot 508: “6/10. This would be considered an excellent car if it wore a VW badge. It doesn’t though so it’s a life of being unrecognised for Peugeot’s biggest saloon. Maybe the facelift which further enhances its luxo-wannabe status, will change things? Hmm. We can perhaps guess.”
The Vauxhall Insignia also gets 65 words and a postage stamp-sized picture, despite being actually a volume seller. Odd that. How should they appropriate the space? If the rule is that if it sells well it gets a big panel then the Insignia deserves a big panel too. If the rule is that the car is good and deserves a bit of cover then the 508 deserves a page like the Mondeo and Passat. I can’t help thinking the space allocation is capricious though, as I say, neat.
Page 10: The Guide likes the Toyota S-FR. They expect it to see production.
The Guide likes small Fiats. The 500 and Panda get good ratings. In fact, the Panda is the editor’s choice (or is that the editors’ choice?). I learned there is a 4×4 Panda. Or maybe I relearned that. One has not crossed my path, as far as I am aware. The Panda is vibrant to drive, says the Guide. All that on pages 14-15.
The Hyundai i10 and Kia Picanto garner 8 out of 10 and 7 out of 10 respectively and are still deemed to lack character (the i10) and to be blunt to drive (the Picanto).
Renault’s Twingo gets a rave review but only seven out of ten. “As entertaining and satisfying as the old Twingo was mundane and mediocre”, they say. That means it is incredibly entertaining and really, really satisfying. So why only seven out of ten? The Smart ForTwo is not that good. 6 out of 10 is what it’s worth. Does that make sense?
The Toyota Aygo (which we have tested here) gets 8 out of 10. Decent refinement they say. Rubbish I reply. It’s as noisy as the inside of a Rolls-Royce jet engine at full throttle.
The Guide likes the Vauxhall Adam. I didn’t think they would. I like the Adam and that is a sure sign most people won’t go near it even if it cures male pattern baldness.
The Volkswagen Up is a “game changer for the whole class” and it has “quirky good looks”. What are they on at the BBC? There’s nothing quirky about the Up. It’s ruthlessly professionally styled. There is not one ounce of fat on that car.
Eight other cars share the final page of the city car section: the Citroen C1, the Seat Mwah, the Ford Ka, the Suzuki Celerio (which I thought Autocar liked a lot), the Mitsubishi Mirage (three out of ten, goodness me), the Peugeot 108 and the Vauxhall Viva. That last car is “boxy five door”. You might not like it but it’s not boxy any more than a hat is boxy. Or maybe everything other than Constantin Brancusi´s Bird In Space is boxy, if you are the Top Gear Buyer’s/Buyers’ Guide.