Taxpayer-subsidised vehicles are a bone of contention for me. I have a thing about how my money is spent and once got into a lot of trouble for suggesting that I could do it better.
I noticed recently that the Ministry of Defence has splurged £120 million on new motors. Why? These are not fighting vehicles but essentially runabouts for short journeys, all on some sort of clever lease arrangement.
So if I were going to recommend a runabout for the MoD to buy in bulk, what would it be? First, a Honda Civic. I’d be tempted to go for something from 2000 for £350. For that, you get a 1.5i VTEC Sport - a practical five-door job that will never wear out.
However, many of them will have been sacrificed under the scrappage scheme, so finding a few hundred examples now could mean buying further afield from the Far East. And although I am perfectly serious about relics being able to do a job, there are probably some health and safety rules about government departments running 15-year-old motors.
In that case, slightly younger cars would be required. I’ll make another rule: they have to be made in the UK, to keep some money sloshing around the local economy.
So another Civic, then. Why tie up public resources on a contract hire scheme when, with a self-imposed five-year age limit and a budget of £4000 per car, the spaceship-style 2010 2.2 CTDi ES could be the government vehicle of choice?
If something bigger were required, we could look at the Burnaston-built Toyota Avensis. It’s anonymous, efficient and really roomy, plus it won’t give anyone any sleepless nights, because it will just keep on going. Also, leave them for a few years and they don’t cost very much at all. About £5000 buys a five-year-old 2.0D-4D T2. What could be better for shifting armed forces stuff, especially if they plumped for the estate version?
Meanwhile, the top brass will no doubt insist on nothing less than a Lexus. That’s what I would recommend, but they’re not built in Blighty. Jaguars are, though. They also have a pleasing ability to become affordable rapidly.