On the outside, the Hyundai i20 looks like the perfect car for Europe
MONDAY - Curious cruise to the Midlands in what, at first, seemed Europe’s ideal car, the Hyundai i20.
It’s big enough for a growing family, small enough for the city, simple to own and operate, beautifully built, protected by a better warranty than most first owners will ever need and entirely invisible to car thieves and motorway cops.
In short, it’s ideal for the many people who are a bit apprehensive about car ownership and whose priority is to make a sensible buying decision about their next car and avoid shelling out to keep it going.
Which is why, after starting to like the i20, I soon became frustrated with it. It did all the ordinary stuff perfectly, but when it came to having a zesty top end to the engine, or having seats that support you in corners, or dampers that could cope with a bad section of the Fosse Way – or doing anything at all out of the ordinary – it wasn’t at the races.
The big fault I see is with Hyundai’s philosophy. The company has built a huge and thriving business by being exceptionally ordinary. Driving the i20 is a bit like having a friend who could probably beat Usain Bolt over 100 metres – but chooses not to try. In my frustration, I keep thinking about a car with the soul of an Alfa Romeo, built with Hyundai quality and logic. It’d be the best in the world.
WEDNESDAY - Jaguar Land Rover’s latest excellent decision is to appoint Nick Rogers as engineering chief across its two marques, surely one of the plum jobs in the entire world industry. Apart from being an exceptionally nice guy and the owner of a Land Rover Series 1, 47-year-old Rogers has worked at Land Rover for 31 years and his two most recent new models are the current Range Rover and Range Rover Sport. What more credentials could a bloke need?
FRIDAY - I’m on holiday this week, dogged by a problem that occurs often in modern cars: obtrusive road noise. The missus and I have tried several cars for parts of our sojourn. What we need, of course, is an SUV – but our long-term Range Rover Sport is away, singing for its supper.
Everyone seems to have a different justification for owning one of these fundamentally heavy, bulky vehicles; we have five. The higher seats give a better view over the Cotswold walls where we live, cabin and load access is easy, there’s a promise of longer suspension travel (hence a softer ride), and the high clearance and 4x4 get you home in snow or when parked in some farmer’s boggy field.
But the best advantage is low road noise. If cars had a legislated road noise quotient on their windscreens, as well as all the current CO2 guff, it’d be a big step forward.
SUNDAY - As a lifelong F1 fan, attracted to the sport the day I first saw eight outrageous exhaust stacks on Graham Hill’s 1962 championship-winning BRM P578, I’ve never got over this sport’s ability to confound you.
After Melbourne, for the first time in my life, I honestly thought F1 might be heading for the carpet, fatally wounded by a complex combination of high costs, declining revenues, a lack of hero drivers and an engine formula so complex that even the most practised in the business couldn’t fathom it.
Then the circus goes to the Malaysian GP and it’s all different: unfancied Ferrari shows that Mercedes and Hamilton are beatable, there are signs of stirrings at formerly hopeless McLaren Honda, and Fernando Alonso (over whom rumours of career-limiting medical problems hung) gets straight back to doing his usual: extracting more from a racing car than it seems to justify.