The ten biggest reasons (of many) why making a truly fun car is getting harder and harder for manufacturers to achieve
Andrew Frankel Autocar
27 August 2017

Despite the efforts of engineers, many factors have contrived to make cars less enjoyable than in years gone by. Here are 10 of them:

1 PASSIVE SAFETY TESTING

Cars have to pass these crash tests if they are to stand a chance of selling and providing the systems to enable them to do so adds huge amounts of weight, which then makes them less able to avoid the accident in the first place, but nobody measures that the customer doesn’t care.

2 EQUIPMENT

Give people the choice of a light, responsive car with minimal equipment or an overweight sluggard dripping in gadgets and most customers will choose the supersize option every time.

3 SIZE

Increasingly, people want to be seen in big cars because it suits the image they want to project. Also, people today are generally larger than they were a generation or two ago and need more space as a result. And more space means more weight, more width and less fun.

4 EMISSIONS

There are engineering geniuses out there who can still make wonderful and entirely emissions-compliant cars, but all the equipment adds weight and detracts from the character of an engine.

5 TURBOCHARGING

Almost all sporting cars are turbocharged now, and although immense progress has been made, all still have poorer throttle response and make less interesting sounds than they would had they remained normally aspirated.

6 ELECTRONIC POWER STEERING 

Adopted almost across the board, electronic powerassisted steering (EPAS) is very good at letting engineers tune the steering to behave how they want and still very bad at letting the driver feel the road.

7 HYBRIDISATION

It’s going to become increasingly necessary but electric motors and batteries add weight, sap space and, in almost all cases, make the cars to which they are attached slower than they’d be without the mass of the hybrid power pack.

8 TYRE TECHNOLOGY

Modern tyres are incredible, but you only have to drive an old MG B on terrible rubber and see how much fun results at entirely legal speeds to conclude that, in this regard if no other, not all the progress has been in the right direction.

9 STABILITY CONTROL SYSTEMS

We’re not knocking them and every car should have one, but some can’t be turned off even when the car is being driven on a private facility. And that’s no fun.

10 FLAPPY-PADDLE GEARS 

You can’t enjoy driving a car without feeling involved in the process of driving. Anything that removes you from that process therefore diminishes driving pleasure.

Our Verdict

Nissan Qashqai

Nissan's second crossover album goes platinum, but can a light refresh to the Qashqai and some added extras help it hold off the advances from the Seat Ateca and Skoda Kodiaq

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Comments
37

27 August 2017

Performance cars get more powerful, more civilised and more practical with every generation, and at the same time, less exciting and less involving. Manufacturers seem to think ever more unusable top speeds and stupid 0-60 times are all it takes to keep people buying them. I fear they are wrong.

27 August 2017

That statement is borderline criminal, unless it was tongue-in-cheek. Not sure who doesn't care being severely disabled or killed when shit happens. No matter the level of skill you think you have, the worst can very much happen out of your control (ie. you're not the only one on the road and you may, say, suffer a stroke at the wheel...). 

28 August 2017
kapouille wrote:

That statement is borderline criminal, unless it was tongue-in-cheek. Not sure who doesn't care being severely disabled or killed when shit happens. No matter the level of skill you think you have, the worst can very much happen out of your control (ie. you're not the only one on the road and you may, say, suffer a stroke at the wheel...). 

 

 No one wants a car that folds like cardboard in a crash. But the article is right in saying that active safety gets disregarded in the search for passive safety. It doesn't matter if my supermini has a 5 star rating - if an Audi Q7 ploughs into me I am in trouble.

27 August 2017

E-PAS is just blooming awful. A good HPAS system could be a positive over a manual set up, EPAS systems tend to be dire in varying degrees

27 August 2017

Agree with you Steve-p.

Every generation of car has contrived to be less fun. My xr2 in the 90's was a riot, with a heady 96bhp. Ditto my scirocco storm in late 80's, 325 90's, Impreza turbo late 90's etc etc. Actually the most fun was my spitfire with 53bhp - it was hilarious. Ever since then they've all lacked a little something, and each new car becomes more powerful and less fun. But indeed safer, an accident in the spit would have probably been terminal.

My current golf R can be fun, but only at stupid speeds, which makes it not fun. It makes it a liabilty you learn to live with. The car sits in "eco" mode for most of its life as it makes it more docile, not goading you into stupidity at every opportunity as you seek a little fun. Which is a bit irritating.

I keep on getting suckered in to the BS around sub-5 0-62, ultimate handling, grip and lateral g and I should learn. It's largely irrelevant. Where's the fun? I will ignore the advice from many magazines on top cars and go with something that floats my boat better, even if it means the horrible experience of trekking around multiple showrooms and doing the test drive dance - "just give me the keys, no I want to drive a little longer, I'm spending £lots so let me drive where I want to and for as long as I want to, no don't go and see the manager" etc etc x 10.

maybe this is the issue, I listen, even subconsciously, to the magazine ratings and reviews. I don't take the time to define or find what I like because I dislike the showroom false "Swiss Tony" experience. And I don't want any coffee.

I also struggle with how roadcars are tested. Particularly sports cars. As i cannot see how car magazines test them on the road at legal speeds. It just seems impossible. Therefore all conclusions must be drawn in a framework that is outside the law, so bogus from a fun perspective as unless you drive on the track, or a have a pathological disregard for the law, the conclusions must again be bogus. I suppose the answer is again to stop listening to car mags and take the time to try myself. 

Oh, and I quite enjoy reading about car being pushed and driven hard. What I am saying Is I need to take more time and care over finding what I define as fun, not using the car mags as a proxy.

Spanner

27 August 2017
Spanner wrote:

Agree with you Steve-p.

Every generation of car has contrived to be less fun. My xr2 in the 90's was a riot, with a heady 96bhp. Ditto my scirocco storm in late 80's, 325 90's, Impreza turbo late 90's etc...

Which sums up the TRUE reason why cars are getting less fun and what nobody wishes to accept - less fun because we're all getting older.  The summers were always better, apple pie tasted better, music was better, TV programmes were all better etc.  Everything was better when we were young.

And of course cars were much more fun. I used to love it when they were less reliable, I really enjoyed it when they returned 20mpg, the first signs of rust after 2 years of ownership since new made me oh so happy. Steering was better? Was it really? Perhaps on the odd car it was but I seemed to remember turning the steering wheels of cars in the 70's and nothing happening.  And how I miss those times when people were killed or seriously injured at even slow speeds.

The cars today are vastly superior and more fun to those in the past, (just look at Skoda!). It's only when wearing rose-tinted specs we believe otherwise.

27 August 2017

I clearly had better maintained cars in the 80s and 90s, never had any issues which I didn't cause, certainly not Turning the steering wheel and nothing happening. Things we're different, less traffic, cars didn't go as fast or handle as well, the limits of the vehicles were lower, and obviously I was younger. Cars did lack all the safety equipment which is a definite improvement. I would never let my son have some of the tin cans I drove.

The point, in my admittedly long post, is that I need to redefine fun and what I enjoy in cars, as looking for the raw thrills of yesterday is not possible.

Spanner

27 August 2017
Spanner wrote:

........ Cars did lack all the safety equipment which is a definite improvement. I would never let my son have some of the tin cans I drove.....

poor sentence construction. .. I mean current cars are better because of the safety equipment.

Spanner

27 August 2017

Sure, the Octavia is much faster but the Citigo is terrific fun to thrash to its limits and reminds me a little of my old '71 Mini Cooper, depsite having electro steering and ESC.

Now that Mini Cooper was proper, pukka hilarious F.U.N. The only other cars I have owned that were as much fun were  2CV, Renault 5 and Capri.

Steam cars are due a revival.

27 August 2017

i disagree on those matters, but agree on everything else. people do care about safety. i thought it was crash testing which had made cars get bigger, certainly at the rate they have been recently. ignoring the fact that we're turning in to americans and everyone's buying suvs. the idea that a lighter car can avoid a crash is pretty much nonsense. a turbo is only bad if the instalation is rubbish, or if it should really have 2 of them. if you can't drive around a small amount of lag, you need to have a word with yourself.

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