You’d be surprised how seriously carmakers have to take cupholders. The interior real estate required by the need to accommodate the desires of (mostly) American gluggers has reached gigantic proportions.
The new Saab 9-5 is a case in point. The centre console has a flip-back lid, which opens to reveal two huge holes that might pass for a pair of missile silos.
Indeed, so deep are these cupholders – presumably designed for the massive 31-ounce mega drinks popular in some parts of the US – that they have a flip-up mechanism to allow drivers to use them with smaller drinks.
Saab’s interior designers had no choice but to design the centre console around a worst-case scenario. Failure to provide the necessary space can result in a tumble down the consumer satisfaction surveys.
A few years ago, when the BMW Mini was first launched in the US, it performed relatively poorly in the all-powerful JD Power customer satisfaction survey. But it wasn’t really a case of failing UK build quality.
No, what really bugged Mini buyers was the fact they couldn’t get their Grande Espresso Americano into the car’s cupholders. You might remember that the last-generation Mini had a row of toggle switches mounted low on the dash console, which obstructed anything bigger than a can of Coke.
Indeed, BMW USA took the problem so seriously that it commissioned special cups that fitted into the Mini’s cupholders and sent them, free, to American Mini owners.
No surprise, then, that the new Mini Countryman has an aluminium ‘rail’ running the length of the cabin which, as one designer demonstrated with more than a little defiance, can accommodate more clip-in cupholders than the driver could need.
Sadly, one of the casualties of this cupholder capacity has been Saab’s delicate and beautifully designed flip-out cupholders, the first of which debuted in the Saab 9-5 13 years ago.
But it’s noticeable that not every carmaker has given in to the march of the space-hungry cupholder, though those that haven’t generally don’t sell cars in the US.
Citroen have expressed typical French disdain for eating and drinking on the run, by refusing to adorn the C5’s interior with suitable containers.
However, I fear that Europe’s ‘slow food’ movement is on to a loser. I’m always in such a rush I invariably have to take my cup of tea with me.