Not so long ago, the head turners were invariably the hot rods. Expressive meant express; fast equalled fun. A Ferrari glowed with character; most Fords and Fiats had as much character as grumpy Gordon at the dispatch box.
Is it the traffic? Is it the speed limits? Or is it simply that there are some really appealing small cars now, more smiles per hour than miles per hour? Whatever the reason, it wasn’t a big speed Ferrari or a monster Mercedes or a booming BMW that got the neighbours noticing, the pedestrians pointing and other drivers drooling. It was a little Fiat 500, £9300 on the road. What’s more, it was the bargain 1.2 petrol model (my favourite version).
A Maserati GranTurismo – one of my absolute most-wanted cars – left the Green garage just before the little white (with Italian racing stripes) Fiat arrived for road test. Which attracted greater attention in my neck of west London? The Fiat, no contest. Which was more fun to drive on London’s traffic-tainted, roadwork-ruined, speed-humped, messed-up, screwed-up and snarled-up roads? The Fiat, no contest. The poor Maser felt like a thoroughbred racehorse forcibly removed from glorious Goodwood to gridlocked Greater London.
The arrival of some really appealing yet economical small cars – think Mini, think new 500, look at the upcoming Fiesta – means we can have fun on the road despite the politicians’ reign of terror. Of course we shall always lust after a Ferrari or a Maserati and dream of that mythical deserted road and that storybook lack of speed limits. But there are now quite a few desirable ‘happy’ cars that are not only better suited to 21C driving; with their nimbleness, pep and style, they’re frequently more fun too.
Read more of Gavin's thoughts at his CAR Online blog
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