Blog: Dave LeggettSnapshot car impressions

Dave Leggett | 24 May 2006

I got through quite a few cars yesterday on the SMMT test day and I reckon there's a certain impressionistic gain in driving so many different vehicles in one mammoth sitting.

I won't go through them all here, but there were a few surprises as well as a few vehicles that I didn't expect to find myself driving but did.

For example, to the question, "Would you like to drive a Rolls Royce Phantom?" I just found myself incapable of saying no. It's a box to check off. Something to do once. Not all that exciting to drive actually and I think the overriding point of the Roller is to be in the back with a bottle of champagne and a smug look on your face (though RR people say that more people want to drive them themselves these days). And I'd be constantly worrying about the mess I'm making of the deep-pile carpet.

Cadillac BLS 2.8-litre V6 was a surprise - I liked it. Decent engine and peppy on the hill circuit; I found myself liking the interior design also. Tasteful and understated, I thought.

Range Rover Sport in footballer black with darkened windows had me living the David Beckham fantasy for a nanosecond, but it really wasn't fun to chuck around the Millbrook hill circuit at any sort of speed.

Mazda RX-8 was though. Plenty of high-revving fun to be had in owning one of those I would imagine, even if you do have to keep a close eye on the engine oil level in the rotary engine.

Ford S-Max? I gather the volumes are being quietly raised by Ford on this one. Sporty MPV? I guess it's all relative and I'd just been in a Renault Megane Renaultsport 225 turbo (nice) but I do wonder whether, after an initial sales surge, this may end up being seen as just another compact MPV.

I liked the Mitsubishi Colt C2C (convertible with folding metal roof), but the star of the Mitsubishi stand for me was the 'i car'. It's what the Smart ForFour should have been! Take a Smart ForTwo and stretch it so it's a four-door. Looked good (much more funky than the lame Smart ForFour). Front and rear are uncannily Smart-like I thought. Unfortunately, there was a waiting list for it, so I didn't get the chance to drive it.

New Fiat (Grande Punto) and Peugeot (207) superminis seemed pretty good, if nothing to write home about.

Jaguar XK was probably the car I would most like to have taken away to keep.

There was just one vehicle that I drove yesterday that I would definitely not want to have taken out to keep and that was a Nissan Cabstar Tipper (double cab long-wheelbase) in an eye-catching shade of bubblegum pink. Every drive in it raised a bit of money for a breast cancer charity, so I felt obliged to take it out after someone had pointed that out to me. It was fun to see people's reactions to it, actually.

With so many journalists and PRs milling about in one place, there was quite a bit of networking going on during the day. One colleague informed me that he is selling his Mitsubishi L200 pickup and going for something else. Would I care to guess what vehicle? I went through everything I could think of and then gave up, stumped. He then told me that he is going for an electric car designed in California and built in India called the G-Wiz. Bit of a contrast with the L200.

He lives in London and makes many short journeys, so the 40-mile range on a single charge isn't an issue and he has another vehicle for longer journeys anyway. Would have been good to have had a go in one of those.


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