It’s time the Golf and co were more adventurous
22 January 2009 13:55
It used to be called the Escort class. Might sound like a euphemism for the kerbcrawling demographic but we’re talking about C-segment cars, that today you might call the Golf club or Focus group. And I think it needs a kick in the arse.
Why? Well, I just took delivery of a new Golf. Mk6, they call it. And it’s a very lovely car, just like a Mk5 (a heavily facelifted version of which it actually is) but with a level of finish that puts you in mind of the Mk4. And it moves the game on not a jot.
Yes, it’s probably the class leader, which is a bit like saying Heinz makes the best baked beans – there are few dunces in this class but it’s not exactly packed with Oxbridge candidates either. And that really shouldn’t be the case, when these are the kind of cars that real people actually buy with their own money.
Take a look at the D-segment. Under threat of extinction, all the mainstream manufacturers have been trying out of their skin. Result? Omnicompetent Ford Mondeo, super-stylish Vauxhall Insignia, mollifying Citroen C5, archly different Skoda Superb: supermarket brands that truly challenge the premium set by getting close on quality and style or by pummelling them on usefulness and practicality.
Their equivalents in a smaller size? I can think of none. The Focus Mk2 lost the ballsiness of the Mk1, Nissan’s Qashqai looks all SUV but is actually no more useful for it, and the new Renault Megane looks meeker than before but shares the old car’s underpinnings (hardly what you’d call progress). Seat Leon? Less radical than it looks. Volvo C30? Yeah, right. Subaru Impreza? Let me know if you see one without a turbo.
Even so-called superminis (they’re actually not that small, these days) are now so spacious, swift and refined that they’re treading on the toes of the next class up. Step forward (in hob-nailed boots) Ford Fiesta.
If any car has taken over the original Focus’s compelling package of challenging style, practical packaging and decent dynamics, it’s the Honda Civic. And it soon turns three years old, so it’s about time somebody else picked up the baton and put a bit of a sprint on.
Vauxhall, this year’s new Astra better be good.
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