Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint

How much better are supercars than Astra/Focus/Golf class cars?


A few years back I perused the page of Top Gear’s BBC Top Gear New Car Buyers (sic) Guide and found out that they think supercars are better than other types of cars.

Today I am going to see if TG’s methodology has improved by focusing on whether supercars are better than the Astra/Focus/Golf class. To do this I had to add up the star rating for all the cars each group and divide it by the number of cars in the group. I also did the same for all cars in both groups. This yielded three numbers. First, the average rating for all the cars. Third, the average rating for the supercars. And second (oddly) the average rating for the Astra class of cars.

And I also made an interesting discovery about the 2019 edition of the Top Gear’s BBC Top Gear New Car Buyers (sic) Guide. I will leave that to the end in order to create an extra sense of excitement and wonder.

2018 Ford Focus rear: Autocar

First, the average star rating for all cars was 7.65 . This time TG only provided full repost for the top ten in each class, by the way. Third, the average star rating for the 10 supercars was 7.8. TG calls this class “Sport 65K-150K.” And second, the average star rating for the 10 Astra class cars was 7.5.

So, no surprises there: supercars are, in the estimation of TG’s testers, a bit better than ordinary cars. Again, we ask, is it probable that car such as the Astra and Golf with their huge development budgets really are a bit worse than the supercars with their smaller development budgets?

The spreads are not very revealing which is why only giving a full account of the top ten is not sufficient. The top three sports cars all score 9 and both the Golf and Focus get 9 each. Interestingly for we ride quality nerds, TG claims ride quality is the Golf’s ace: “The headline here is the ride, which is little short of a revelation. It absorbs, isolates and simply glides above the disturbance of Britain’s knackered roads”.

The Ford gets some sterling plaudits too and also some stick over the plastics: “Sure a Mercedes A-Class will impress your neighbours more, but it’s you that drives the car not them. The Ford is truly a great drive, especially in its higher trim levels. Pity some of the interior plastics are so grim”.

TG says the Focus is on an all-new platform, by the way. Steering nerds will like the fact the Focus has “strongly self-centering steering” which I applaud. You mostly drive straight ahead, don’t you. I get a much better feeling about this generation of Focus than the last one, I am pleased to say. If there is another Mondeo it could be rather good. But there won’t, we are led to believe.

2018 Porsche 911 interior: source

I can only nod in amazement that Porsche continue to make improvements to the 911 that are detectable by car journalists: “The new 911 is faster but also better balanced and neater to drive”. TG also claim the interior is all new and “of the moment”, a claim I can’t verity or debunk. I feel I have got to the point of anæsthesia when it comes to car design fashion, as least in this class of car. A look at the interior shows the kind of black cliffs that would not have looked out of place in 2009. Lots of buttons.

TG have presented a full-listing of the scores for each car in the back of the magazine in very, very tiny print. The data is presented in alphabetical order so you can’t easily see who comes last in each class.

The interesting thing?  Well, on page 5 there is a list of the cars featured in the reviews and there is not one Opel among them. There also no Subarus and no Mitsubishis in their top tens. The Astra scores a 7 out ten though, as does the Crossland X. The rest of the Vauxhall range all come in at 6 or less.

Data:

Golf 9; Focus 9; Seat Leon 8; BMW 1-series 7; Audi 3 7; Mercedes A-Class 7; Honda Civic 7; Volvo V40 7; Citroen C4 Cactus 7; Kia Ceed 7;

Porsche 911 9; McLaren Sports series 9; Audi R8 9; Mercedes-AM G GT 8;  BMW i8 8; Nissan GT-R 8; Aston Martin Vantage 8; Reliant Kitten 8; Mercedes-AMG C63S 8; Jaguar F-Type V8 7, Lotus Evora 7.

Author: richard herriott

I like anchovies. I dislike post-war town planning.

23 thoughts on “Not A Viewpoint So Much As A Pinpoint”

  1. Good shout for the Kitten, although the Fox is arguably better.
    They’ll be cruising legally on a British motorway just as fast as the 911.

  2. I do feel somewhat perversely nostalgic for the days when there were some truly bad cars on the market, the ones that received two stars or fewer in Car Magazine’s Good, Bad and Ugly listing and prompted some pithy and witty summaries, for example:

    “Rover Streetwise: only the streetstupid will buy one”

    Proton could be relied upon consistently to prop up the bottom of the rankings with cars such as the Savvy supermini and Impian “compact executive” model. (I have never, to my knowledge, met a compact executive, so I can’t verify that this is their choice of car.)

    The Savvy is worth a look because of its sheer oddness:

    I think the Savvy is interesting, and a DTW sort of car, because it did not try to ape the designs of contemporary superminis from major manufacturers. This is what you might have expected from a company virtually unknown in Europe, a “me too” design. Instead, its designers went their own way with interesting results. The handling of the DLO, clamshell bonnet and hatchback are noteworthy, if not necessarily successful. Note the neat way the hatchback shut line aligns with the bumper to wing panel gap, and that chamfer that runs along the sides, through the headlamps (defining the indicators) and across the front end.

    Anyway, I’ve digressed from the question I intended to raise: from every model currently on sale, which would you nominate as a truly bad car from a design perspective?

    1. Apart from the rear badge and its mounting and the fact the raised shoulder is awful for kids in the back, this is a pleasing design. Without knowing who did it, I´d call that a Coventry School of Art and Design car. If it´s not by a British designer, I would be surprised. The bonnet is excellent too, like a small Land Rover. I have almost certainly never seen one.

    2. Hi Richard. Happily, I don’t need to resort to Photoshop to remove the odd “beak” on the tailgate: Proton did it in the facelift:

      There’s no information online that I can find as to who designed the Savvy, except to say that it was done “largely in-house”.

    3. Toyota C-HR and Renault Captur are bold and bland takes on the same very bad design ethos.

      Take a very competent small car. Make it taller and heavier, and dynamically poorer in every way, and charge a lot more money for it. If you want to stand out (as with the C-HR), introduce wild styling motifs to the detriment of non-essential items such as visibility and natural light into the cabin.

      They are dreary and terrible. I pity the poor engineers and designers compelled to make this rubbish.

    4. Jacamo, I absolutely agree about the C-HR. It is trying way too hard to be hip and edgy, like your grandad at a rave, and failing miserably. I think you’re a little harsh on the Captur though. I acknowledge that it’s dynamically inferior to the Clio on which it’s based (How could it be otherwise?) but not an offensive or bad design in my book. For that, I give you this, another small SUV:

      The up-on-tiptoes mini SUV with that stupid spare wheel hanging way out at the back. So far, it’s had two or three major revisions as Ford has struggled to make it tolerable, and yet it seems to sell well enough. There’s always at least one in our local Tesco car park.

      When trawling for the photo above, I discovered that it had a predecessor, which looked like a butched-up version of the (European) Fusion model with a different rear glasshouse, and wasn’t half bad looking:

      Much better and more planted looking than its successor, in my humble opinion.

    5. The Ford Ecosport is indeed a travesty.

      My antipathy towards the Captur is still justified, however. I also dislike the Seat Arona (a bloated Seat Ibiza, with no redeeming features at all) for the same reason.

    6. “I do feel somewhat perversely nostalgic for the days when there were some truly bad cars on the market,…”

      There are plenty of terrible vehicles on the market, they are just not the cheap ones. For example, I have a cousin who maintains a large fleet of vehicles for a wealthy individual in Atlanta. He had the opportunity to extensively drive a BMW X6 M. It was very fast and all, but the ride was so horrible he would have much rather just had the use of an economy car.

      And that’s in suburban Atlanta, which has some of the best maintained roads in North America !

      Motoring journalists are going to pull their punches on the high end vehicles, no matter how bad, because that’s where the advertising money comes from. And that is what their readers are buying, or want to buy, so they don’t want to start insulting the aspirations of their readers.

      It’s always easy to rag on how terrible entry level Dacia’s are, etc… since car enthusiasts are not buying those cars.

      Kiss up, and piss down. Same as it always was.

  3. Daniel: that is much better. Neat little car, isn´t it? The shutlines are very tidy too, as you pointed out. The raised window line is probably a reasonable price to pay for the identity it provides. In-house? I am not sure. Maybe they hired a designer from outside on a contract basis.

    1. A thought struck me when pondering the stepped window line and negative/inverted crease* in body section below, that I’d seen these details together somewhere else:

      The Hyundai Matrix was, apparently, a Pininfarina design, and proof that even the best can have an off-day. I wonder how much the design house got paid to allow Hyundai to use its badge on the rear flanks of the Matrix? Not nearly enough, I hear you reply.

      *I just made up that term and hope it’s self-explanatory.

  4. Daniel,

    I also look back with fondness to the pithy put-downs in CAR’s GBU.

    A favourite to this day was their summary of the Ford Capri…

    For: face vents work well
    Against: suspension doesn’t
    Sum up: history on wheels

    1. Hi Eóin. Thanks for the heads-up regarding the Savvy. I should, of course, guessed that it had already been examined here. It’s a measure of the open-mindedness of DTW’s authors and readership that this car wasn’t simply dismissed, or mocked for its unusual design.

  5. At least I am consistent: this is what I wrote about the Savvy in 2018: “The Savvy´s appearance screams UK automotive design. I´d guess an outside contractor was called in to work at Proton for a while. I may be wrong. However, the linear look and the coincidence of the graphics and the curvature indicates someone who has drunk deep from the Land Rover/Rover school of design.
    The rear has some “alien” elements that suggest a mild-tinkering by the in-house design staff.
    If you look at the list of Proton car it shows a very miscellaneous assortment. The Savvy has no relation to the other cars and the same goes for every other car there. Maybe the Savvy is based on a rejected Rover design or a design someone did with Rover in mind (because they had worked there and had been fired and needed a job).”

  6. Does anyone remember the original Top Gear TV programme. I seem to recall that an element of design that they used to test was how easy was it to load shopping bags into the boot, rather than how quickly the rear tyres could be destroyed on a test track.

    1. Glory days of sensible programming. Alas, reality television emerged on Big Brother and extended its pernicious tentacles to consumer television. And the BBC in particular lost its determination to educate and inform as well as entertain. At some point new producers pushed the idea that consumer programming had to entertain more than deal with the realities of the products.

    2. Unfortunately, Dale and Richard, you’re absolutely right: “entertainment” seems to trump information and education on the BBC these days, irrespective of the programme.

      I stopped watching Top Gear years ago, as the blokey humour and borderline racism, sexism and homophobia* of Messrs. Clarkson and co. became just too cringeworthy. From the trailers, the latest iteration of the “new” Top Gear team of presenters (comprising a former cricketer, a game show presenter and, amazingly, a motoring journalist) seems still to be reprising the same adolescent humour: “Either this car’s got heated seats, or I’ve just pi**ed myself!” Hillarious!

      The new series starts on Sunday. I won’t be watching as I’ve got a sock drawer to rearrange.

      * Before anybody accuses me of jumping to conclusions. I don’t believe that Clarkson, Hammond and May are any if these things, but the first two certainly know how to rattle the cage bars of those who might harbour such views. (Apologies if this is straying into territory DTW normally and laudably tries to avoid.)

    3. No, you’re on safe groud. All of those -phobias are beyond the pale. There is no difference between pretending to be x-phobic for humourous reasons and actually being x-phobic. It´s like “pretending” to be violent. In the end the joke is on them because only oafs take that line.
      To add to the list of contributory factors, Loaded Magazine might also have been a prompt. It at least showed there was a market for moronic laddishness. There must be a good book on where laddism came from. It could well have been the first skirmish in what our N. American cousins call the “culture wars”. The television show Men Behaving Badly is another source. I can´t recall if I read that here or at the Grauniad.
      One of the odd things about the Clarkson era TG was that it also ditched classlessness. The old show may have been presented by blokes from good univerities but they didn´t show it. In contrast, Clarkson esp. in his early years gave off emanations of upper class sneering. I don´t know how that related to the other trend of including more regional voices and more people from non-upper middle class backgrounds in television. I suppose the BBC and other channels lost their meritocratic ideals.

    4. It went from one extreme to another though. The old Top Gear was frequently William Woollard spending twenty minutes of the programme reporting from the Points and Distributor Cap Show at the Birmingham NEC.

      The new Top Gear (2002 onwards) is obsessed with speed and £1m+ hypercars. Who cares?

    5. To be fair, I think the internet did for TV’s role in providing solid, dull consumer advice.

      Noel Edmund’s observation on the ease of adjusting the head restraints on a Volvo 340 play well as amusing nostalgia clips on You Tube, but isn’t the sort of thing commissioning editors go for these days.

  7. Mr Herriott asked a simple straightforward question at the beginning of this article:

    “How much better are supercars than Astra/Focus/Golf class cars?”

    The comment thread-jacking into discussing some p*sspot Proton seems typical these days. I don’t care about someone’s photo-shopping skills. Why not answer the original question?

    My answer is that apart from styling, generally the better mass-produced cars are better thought out than more specialty niche ones. They have to be to appeal to the masses who are turning over actual hard-earned cash to lease or buy them. Highly-strung impractical hard to see out of supercars are annoying except on a certain level. And these days, the actual manufacturing precision is no less on the mass-produced vehicle, only interior materials and paint are inferior, and bodyshell crashworthiness is likely better on the common car due to the dedicated effort of thousands.

    I’ve lost interest in so-called supercars, because everyday models are quick enough but for all the wealthy folk and highly-jaded motor journalists. A Golf R with o to 60 times in the mid four-second range makes a ’70s supercar slow. That was my raison d’etre for loving “supercars” in the old days – raw power if truth be told. The styling? Well, nice I suppose if it looks fast. Getting down to three seconds in some low slung beast these days seems irrelevant when the cost differential is so large from a hugely competent mass-produced steed.

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