Currently reading: Matt Prior's tester's notes - class warfare alive and well on the roads
Matt finds that his choice of wheels has a dramatic effect on how other road users react to him

This week, the odometer on the Toyota GT86 I’ve been looking after since last July clicked past 27,500 miles. Which means I’ve been driving it a lot.

And it has been easy, not only because of the qualities of the car, which are legion, but also because of the reactions of other road users to it.

What you drive, as you’ll suspect, is intimately related to the way you’re treated by other road users. I’ve known about this for a long time, but until the Toyota came along, I tended to swap between cars as often as I swap socks, and any niggling suspicion here or there that I wasn’t being let out of a junction because I was driving, say, a BMW X6 M would soon be gone, because the car would be, too, and the moment would be past.

Now, though, it’s easier to see the differences. I’ll be in the Toyota for a week and everything will be rosy. Yes, the GT86 is a sports car, but an unassuming one, so nobody gets annoyed with it and a few people are impressed by it.

If you’d like to be let into a busy flow of traffic, the chances are that if you drive a GT86, you will be. If you pull into a faster flow of traffic, nobody really minds because it’s assumed that you’ll hitch your skirt up and get on with it. I’ve come to be very familiar, and extremely content, with the way the Toyota is viewed.

Then two things happened. First, I spent a few days in a Suzuki Celerio. The Celerio is a car I like very much, but a small city car is something that the rest of motordom views as if it found it on the bottom of its shoe. If I was overtaking a slower lane of traffic, I was tailgated. If I was waiting at the lights, somebody would pull alongside, not behind, so that I didn’t hinder them when the lights turned green.

It was the single most frustrating thing about driving the car. And then I spent a while in a Range Rover Sport SVR. In white. With very large wheels. Now, certainly, I wasn’t tailgated, but never was Igiven an ounce of courtesy or an inch of room where it could possibly be avoided. The inference was clear: “You, mate, are not the boss of me.” It’s no wonder so many are fitted with privacy glass when the hostility is so open. I’d want to become a recluse, too. In the end, I drove it with unfailing politeness, waving everybody I could out of junctions, just to see their reactions. I can see, then, why people who can afford supercars do not necessarily drive them very often.

Sometimes, you just want to go about your business, unnoticed, in a car that says as little as possible about you.

Me? I’ll go back to the Toyota. I like it there.

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This light, uncomplicated coupé promises so much. Can the Toyota GT86 deliver?

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Matt Prior

Matt Prior
Title: Editor-at-large

Matt is Autocar’s lead features writer and presenter, is the main face of Autocar’s YouTube channel, presents the My Week In Cars podcast and has written his weekly column, Tester’s Notes, since 2013.

Matt is an automotive engineer who has been writing and talking about cars since 1997. He joined Autocar in 2005 as deputy road test editor, prior to which he was road test editor and world rally editor for Channel 4’s automotive website, 4Car. 

Into all things engineering and automotive from any era, Matt is as comfortable regularly contributing to sibling titles Move Electric and Classic & Sports Car as he is writing for Autocar. He has a racing licence, and some malfunctioning classic cars and motorbikes. 

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AHA1 5 May 2015

The exceptions prove the rule

I'd broadly concur with Matt's observations. Definitely posh cars are not the place to be if you need to pull out into traffic.

I do enjoy the pointed exceptions however: the female driver of some hardcore exotic, the courteous exec saloon driver, the SUV driver that exactly bisects a width restictor at pace, the unhurried cabbie etc etc. Makes you realise humans are more important than their machines after all.

One plea: to all drivers of HID & LED-shod autos (Audis especially) - don't sit on your brakes at the traffic lights. The brake warning light glare for the poor unfortunates behind is headache-inducing!

Marv 5 May 2015

Since switching to an 06 Jetta

I've found other drivers want to get past me even when I'm going some on the m'way. When possible, I'll have the cruise on and I usually end up passing the same cars 2/3 times as they speed up to pass me only to slow down later and end up being re-passed. It doesn't seem to happen so often when driving my wife's CX-5.
michael knight 12 May 2015


Marv wrote:

I'll have the cruise on and I usually end up passing the same cars 2/3 times as they speed up to pass me only to slow down later and end up being re-passed. It doesn't seem to happen so often when driving my wife's CX-5.

This. Really bloody annoying when people do this - i use cruise on the commute and often get this. Or people speeding up as you're overtaking them, at a constant speed. Numptys!

fadyady 2 May 2015

Cars say a lot

Cars say a lot about us and drivers react accordingly. I kown I'm generalising but on the whole BMWs are the most aggressively driven cars, I hate an Audi behind me on red lights or in slow traffic. They and Skoda taxis always tailgate where you can't get away from their nuisance. Most of the Volkswagens however are rather calmly driven never hurried observing the law especially the older GTIs and GTDS even when they're being driven over the limit. Majority of Toyotas fall in the same group.