Remember 1995? It seems like at least a couple of lifetimes ago for me, what with John Major as PM, four channels of telly and – for determined early adopters – the internet arriving at the dizzying rate of 16.6 kilobytes per seconds.
Yet it was also the year that saw the introduction of the Ford Galaxy, at the time a state-of-the-art MPV, which spawned its Seat Alhambra badge sister the following year.
I mention this because, in the here and now of late 2008, I’ve just driven a brand-new example of pretty much the same car. Ford replaced the Galaxy two years ago, but Volkswagen and Seat have persevered – and the Sharan and Alhambra are even getting gussied-up with various bits of eco-kit.
In a world where an eight year old car is positively drawing its pension, finding a mainstream car that’s been in continuous production for thirteen years is quite an achievement. Indeed, now the first generation Ford Ka has been quietly knocked on the head, I reckon the ‘Shalambra’ has become the oldest car on sale in Europe – with the obvious exception of the new-for-1984 Land Rover Defender.
Our view of old cars tends to be influenced by the faults they pick up with time – the last Alhambra I rode in was an 80,000-mile minicab – and it’s interesting to drive a box-fresh version and to realise that, in many ways, it’s still competitive with the rest of its admittedly not particularly exciting segment.
Indeed, the new Ecomotive bits were undoubtedly the worst parts of the car, giving it a bouncy ride and lots of wind noise. But underneath there’s a perfectly decent people-carrier trying to get out.