Currently reading: Cropley on cars - Keyless is no-go; Audi's 1.0-litre wonder
Keyless entry makes for stressful situations, Peugeot 407 has classic looks, Audi's tiny A1 offers big-car luxury

MONDAY - Disaster. Worse, a predictable disaster. Drove away from home on a routine mission to collect a car, with the Steering Committee assisting.

As is becoming increasingly common, we were in a ‘keyless’ car, its all-important fob in my 
pocket. You can guess the 
rest. We arrived at our destination and, engine still running, swapped seats. I got into the other car and drove 
off on a reporting job.

The Steering Committee then went to head for a different destination, at which point – 
of course – she discovered her car wouldn’t restart because its ignition controller was now some 30 miles away.

There ensued a flurry of phone calls, fuss and inconvenient dashes, during which both of us railed 
against this gigantic built-in drawback of keyless systems that makes any apparent advantage seem minuscule. 
I ‘get’ remote locking, but not the keyless thing. The convenience so often cited is illusory, especially since these systems have evidently also been aiding thefts of upmarket cars. Who wants one?

TUESDAY - Funny how your opinion of a car changes with time. When it was new, I thought of the Peugeot 407 (2004-2010) as an inoffensive car of no great merit, its plus points all but obscured by the better credentials of the Volkswagen Passat and Ford Mondeo.

Now I’m starting to see 407s as special because of the Ferrari-derived front-end styling that starts with the ‘mouth’, the rakish lights and the wide egg-crate grille.

All of a sudden it seems remarkable – and as history flows it will inevitably become more so – that a big-selling family model was styled to echo the best points of the Ferrari Daytona by a French designer (Gerard Welter) who simply could not disguise his admiration for the Italian supercar.

But then, Welter 
was very special himself. He was the only chief designer in history ever to run his own, private Le Mans team – Welter Racing – from workshops in 
his own back yard.

WEDNESDAY - I love little cars with little engines but still felt a tinge of apprehension at being dispatched on a 470-mile, day-long round trip in the five-door Audi A1 Sport powered by the latest 97bhp 1.0-litre turbo triple, which the tyre smokers have just had in for test. Perhaps, said my more traditional self, it’d have been better to tackle such a relentless journey with the quicker and more powerful 1.4 TFSI. Or even a nice Range Rover Sport?

Not for the first time, my inner traditionalist was wrong. Within five miles I discovered that this new A1 three-pot is not only beautifully smooth and quiet but also gives up its healthy 94bhp with the utmost willingness.

I revelled in the compactness of the car and its fine driving position but soon appreciated what I’d already been told by our testers: that the Sport’s stiffer suspension and bigger tyres promote a poorer ride with more road noise than the standard SE.

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As a half-way house, you can order a Sport and delete the stiff suspension at no cost but keep the better-looking wheels. The A1’s big strength is the way it keeps its small-car advantages while offering a decent helping of big-car luxury.

FRIDAY - There are (at least) two things wrong with having friends in Wales. One is that it costs you £6.50 every time you want to visit them in a car, because that’s the iniquitous price you’re charged to cross either of the bridges that lead there.

The second is that you have to queue for 10 to 15 minutes for the privilege of paying the dosh.

I’m amazed residents across the Bristol Channel aren’t moved to more frequent protest. Compared with the new procedure attached to crossing the Thames Estuary at the other end of London – or even the system it superseded – this is a trip straight back to the 1950s.

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Steve Cropley

Steve Cropley Autocar
Title: Editor-in-chief

Steve Cropley is the oldest of Autocar’s editorial team, or the most experienced if you want to be polite about it. He joined over 30 years ago, and has driven many cars and interviewed many people in half a century in the business. 

Cropley, who regards himself as the magazine’s “long stop”, has seen many changes since Autocar was a print-only affair, but claims that in such a fast moving environment he has little appetite for looking back. 

He has been surprised and delighted by the generous reception afforded the My Week In Cars podcast he makes with long suffering colleague Matt Prior, and calls it the most enjoyable part of his working week.

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The Apprentice 11 August 2015

I never 'got' keyless until I

I never 'got' keyless until I got my current car but I love it now. And my PHEV has loud sounders inside and outside, if I try and walk away too far with the engine running it makes a right din that sends you scuttling back to it! Key stays in my trouser pocket all day, get out for fuel touch touch the handle to lock on the way out, come back touch to unlock get in, handful of shopping, no fumbling and blipping.
MrJ 11 August 2015

Keyless ignition as useful as

Keyless ignition as useful as automatic lights and wipers - designed by techies 'because they can' and marketed by suits as a 'sales tool.'

In practical terms none offer any advantage, and in most instances required more work to operate than before.

Adrian987 11 August 2015


May depend upon car age/brand? .......@Deputy has identified some plus points for keyless. On the lights and wipers thing, I have had both now for 6+ years. I would disagree that they offer no practical advantage. Mine are set to automatic nearly all the time which I find beneficial in most circumstances. I can switch them to normal if preferred. The auto wipers on my current car are more intelligent than the ones that went before (e.g. they do now detect an outside-misting-up windscreen). My criticism of the lights tech (still) is really only that it does not recognise fog, so driver input is still needed in those conditions, but in reality, a couple of clicks on the switch is all that is needed. Something I do find a hindrance (you've not mentioned) is the flick to indicate function - for clumsy mortals like me, they are a pain if you accidentally flick and then try to "cancel" - so I have that bit of tech well and truly switched off.
Bristolbluemanc 11 August 2015

Bridge into Wales

Not sure what time of the day you are crossing the Severn but early in the morning the queues are easily manageable. The cost is ridiculous. It just keeps on going up for no noticeable gain to the motorist.