Question: you’re on a dual carriageway and there’s a set of traffic lights ahead. They’re red. In the lefthand lane, there’s a four-axle tipper truck and an ageing Toyota Yaris. In the right-hand lane, there’s a new BMW 3 Series. Which lane are you going to pull into?
Yes, me too. Because why wouldn’t you? The car in the right-hand lane is a dead cert to pull away more quickly.
We all do it, don’t we? Make snap, quick judgements based on the cars we see, because cars tell us a lot about the people who are driving them.
You see somebody in an acceleration lane while you’re in lane one of a motorway. Will you need to adjust your speed for the 10-year-old Nissan Micra? Probably. For the Tesla fresh from a Supercharger session? It’s most likely about to accelerate to a million miles an hour on its way to lane three, so probably not.
You will have been on the receiving end of these judgements, too. Lord knows that I have. Climbing into a different car every few days and perhaps keeping one for a few months, I experience different kinds of prejudice, positive and negative, several times a week.
In a big, burly 4x4 like a Ford Ranger Raptor, the experience is, how to put it: respectful. This is a vast car with an angry face; people waved gaily and let me out of junctions in it, because it’s intimidating. I suppose that even if someone had tailgated me in it (which they didn’t), they would soon have vanished from my mirror’s vista as they honed in on the load bay.
But try pulling into a faster lane of traffic in exactly the same fashion as I might in a Ranger Raptor in a Dacia Sandero and I find that I can get a very different response. I’m the same bloke when driving both, but I’m perceived quite differently.
I tell myself not to mind this, because I make the same judgement calls. I bet we all do. How fast will that car enter a roundabout? It’s signalling, but is it really going to turn? I’ll bet with each call you make, your assessment is correct more than 90% of the time.
Enter, then, the Toyota GR Yaris that I’m spending a lot of time in at the moment. It makes for an interesting case. A very small percentage of road users know exactly what it is, and then there’s everybody else, who all think it’s just a Yaris.
It’s an issue for confusion, then, and one that I think is only going to become more complex for all of us – not because there’s going to be an influx of similar rally replicas but due to the rise of alternatively fuelled vehicles.