Archive | November, 2011

Carbon Offsetting Carficionado-style

15 Nov

You're ruining it for everyone else, you bastard!

So I’m a fan of cars and, because you are reading this scraping from the barrel of my genius, I’m going to assume you are too (more likely though, you are someone I’ve guilt-tripped into reading this because you know me. Or perhaps a bit of both. Either way, welcome!). Well anyway, unless you have had your head inserted firmly into your lower colon for the last few years, you’ll know that everyone is up in arms about cars. The number on the road, the amount of CO2 per kilometre that they produce, the number of people killed by them etc.

The M25, yesterday. Ignore the fact that it's sunny and all the cars are all fitted with foreign number plates and driving on the wrong side of the road. Thanks.

And these are all worthy things that should be worried over. Now I’m not going to talk about the number on the road or safety because….well, because that’s dull. I mean yesterday I talked about killer robots, for Chrissakes! But I’ve had a thought recently and I’m going to share it with you. Of all the cars circumnavigating the M25 right now, what percentage of those do you reckon are car enthusiasts? I’m going to say 15%, max. And yet 100% of those cars going around and around and around the M25 are almost certainly contributing to CO2 production. Do you see where I’m going with this? You’ve got 85% of people who’d be just as happy driving a DFS sofa with an engine in the back of it, driving around, melting the icecaps, giving us real drivers a bad name and, frankly, ruining a thing that I love, namely driving fossil-fuel powered cars at a vast rate of. And it’s these people who moan at Top Gear for letting its presenters drive around fast, unenvironmental cars: look you bastards! This is the last vestige for car lovers, because you’ve ruined everything else with your stupid Nissan Micras! Can we please enjoy a mere 3 people driving around in cars with V12s whilst you and literally billions like you trundle around in your crappy four-cylinder cars doing cumulatively far greater damage!

Let us petrolhead idiots be! OK, this picture's not making a strong case....

Anyway, I digress, because it’s all going to be OK. Because what I hope will happen is that, instead of planting trees to offset CO2 emissions, in five years time, everyone who drives a car who doesn’t care about the engine or how it corners or even what it looks like, will drive cars that produce the same amount of CO2 per kilometre as I do every time I burp. And then there’ll be some headroom for people like you and I to get down to the serious business of driving.

In fact, I can think of something better than that. In order to be allowed to use petrol, you’ll have to take a basic quiz on cars, with questions no harder than “What car was John Cleland driving when he won the 1995 Touring Car Championship?” or “Name 3 incarnations of the Ferrari 250” – easy stuff! And if you get it right, you can have petrol, and if you don’t, you can drive the new Daihatsu Mains Adaptor, or whatever. Now that’s what I call carbon offsetting!

John Cleland. Voted 'Most Fuckable BTCC Driver 1992'

Alfa Romeo 164 Pro-car and Renault Espace F1: There’s hope for you yet, tiny human

14 Nov

Space Dog!

What images are conjured up when I mention the Alfa Romeo 164 and the Renault Espace? Speed? Dynamism? No. The images being conjured up in my head right now are of a scrap yard. Or a car park in Stevenage. Yet just as a common or garden dog has felt the exalted glory of space travel, and Cinderella was transformed from a common or garden scrubber into a princess, would you Adam and Eve that these common or garden cars were permitted to have a nibble at the crust of the highest heights for any automobile: Formula 1.

The Alfa 164 Pro-car. Comical.

Yes, for reasons now obfuscated by the passing of the decades, someone selected the blocky saloon shell of the 164 and the clunky body of a Renault Espace and shoe-horned some state-of-the-art F1 technology into their unassuming shells. In the case of the Alfa, it built the Pro-car, for ‘tis its name, in 1988 when there was talk of there being a race series to accompany Formula 1 races – which was subsequently cancelled, presumably causing much fist-shaking and “why I outtas!” (in Italian) at the Alfa factory. The car’s figures are…..impressive. It had a top speed of 211mph and an output of 620bhp from its V10 engine. The engine was so strong that there was even an option for Ligier to utilise it in their own Formula 1 cars. That’s right – Ligier, or the greatest racing team ever! No? Just me?

The Espace F1. ROFL.

As for the Espace, that was built by Matra and Williams merely as a technical exercise, and presumably for a small amount of comedy value as well. For what could be funnier than watching an MPV hurtle around a track at F1 speeds? Not much! The Espace was also powered by a V10, the self-same V10 as propelled Monsieur Prost to his 1993 F1 title. 0-62mph was dealt with in a mere 2.8 seconds, despite it having the drag co-efficient of a privet hedge, and it could achieve a top speed of 194mph. I have had the pleasure of driving the Espace F1, albeit on the computer game Gran Turismo 2, and let me tell you something for nothing, it goes like stink (hmm actually, given that no car company PRs seem to want me to drive their products, Gran Turismo reviews may be the way forward…..). Well it was fast anyway.

Well, dear Readers, I hope that this article has given you hope. Your lives maybe sad and pointless now, just as was the case for the Alfa 164 and Renault Espace, but maybe some day, some nice engineer will come along, rip out your boring innards and turn you into a bionic murderous space robot. Fingers crossed eh? Fingers crossed.

You now.

You after the revolution.

Honda Civic – a Carficionado design appraisal

3 Nov

Impreza and Ampera combine to make.....not a lot

Soooo, Honda have brought out their new Civic. And, Maverick that I am, I’m going to say something slightly controversial: I think it looks dull. When the last-gen model came out six years ago, the looks weren’t to everyone’s tastes. But you have to say, it didn’t look like anything else on the road at the time. But the novelty of that Civic began to wear off surprisingly quickly, to the point where I think it now looks quite dated and so the new one needed to re-invent the wheel again. And, in my opinion, it hasn’t. It doesn’t help that Honda suited up the test car that the world’s press drove in a lime green that was last seen adorning an HR-V in the late 90s. But the front fascia is just…..nothingy. It has hints of the new Subaru Impreza (dull) and then some vague attempt at a Vauxhall Ampera-style moulded grille/bumper. But that all works together to make a sigh of a design.

No, I’ll tell you what it looks like and why that offends me. It looks like a concept car from the 90s. You know, those ones that pointed at an exciting, dynamic future for car design, but were ultimately hemmed in by the fact that the designs were still necessarily of their time. It just doesn’t look fresh enough and, for reasons mentioned in yesterday’s post as well as others, that’s very soon not going to be good enough. There are grumblings in the automotive world about Toyota also straying from the path, with the new Yaris receiving wide-scale raspberry noises and thumbs down. We all want to see Japan succeed after what happened there earlier this year. But to do that, they’re going to have to step up.

Korea shall inherit the Earth…..

2 Nov

From this......

.....to this

*N.B. I’m going to just blaze straight through the division between North and South Korea for ease of writing. I appreciate that this is politically and geographically ignorant…..

Time was when all Korean cars were, to quote a phrase, “f**king awful”. In the 90s there was a seemingly endless barrage of horrible-looking, horribly-named, drab, dreary, awful, terrible cars that emerged from the teat of Asia’s eastern breast (am I going to get murdered for saying this? Keep an eye out for me, Readers!). Some names come to mind at this juncture: the Kia Pride (setting yourself up for a fall there). The Daewoo Nubira. The Hyundai Atoz. The Ssangyong Korando. Are you enjoying this little trip down memory lane? Me neither.

Whatever you do, take Pride. Or not, as the case may be.

The image conjured up in my head when I think about this veritable chamber of horrors of the automotive industry is similar to the image I see in my mind’s eye when I recall Kieslowski’s great movie A Short Film About Killing – I just picture a lot of grey, various barren landscapes and some dead people. The Korean car industry in the 90s and the early part of this millennium was, frankly a joke.

Korean car industry circa 1997

But something weird has started to happen. Korean cars have started becoming…..OK. I have a mate who drives a 2005 Hyundai Getz and it’s pretty good. The interior plastics don’t feel like a BMW and it’s not the quickest car I’ve ever been in, but it does its job as a small hatchback remarkably well, without making my friend, or me when I travel in it, want to kill ourselves. More recent offerings are even better. I did some work experience for a big UK car magazine and they were good enough to let me have a runaround in the new Kia Piccanto and I have to say, I had a cracking time in it. I mean, the 3-cylinder engine was a bit comical – it sounded like a V12 heard from about a mile away – and the steering and brakes were both over-servoed, but it was a hoot! At the Frankfurt motor show in September, the Korean cars all looked excellent, even the Ssangyongs, despite the company’s crappy, depressing stand. The Kia GT concept? As good looking, I would say, as Jaguar’s C-X16 concept. The Hyundai i40? Looks to be a great real-world alternative to a Mondeo (although you have to say, Hyundai have shamelessly aped Ford in improving their brand, which is no bad thing).

Picanto. We like.

i40. We also like.

One must assume, then, that Korea are just going to keep moving up in the car world in the same way as Skoda have done, until they are perfectly viable options, not just for cash-strapped pensioners, but for everyone. Carficionado might even end up buying a Korean car one day – and that will be a world gone topsy-turvy! Not only that, but what nation is the most advanced on hydrogen fuel-cell technology? That would be Korea. Get ready, dear Readers, to see them become a really, really dominant force in the car industry.