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.
We don’t have to go for the Jaguar latest XJ, because the old one was great. It looked sensational and already had some of the aluminium elements that make modern Jags class leaders. So we’re looking at a 2007 2.7 TDVi Sovereign at around £7000.
Older Jaguars aren’t as flakey as they used to be, and I would argue that the running costs on one of these should be containable. Also, couldn’t these be serviced by the brilliant Royal Engineers?