NO BAD CARS ANY MORE? RUBBISH, I FOUND PLENTY

Jeremy Clarkson
Sunday Times, UK 

EVERY year there is an extraordinary motor show where visitors can not only look at the exhibits, and steal the cigarette lighters, but also start them up and drive them flat out on a. variety of test tracks It's hosted by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders at the Milibrook Proving Ground in Bedfordshire and last week I went along.

The temptation was strong to spend all day being a hooligan in the Ferraris and Maseratis but, for some reason, I came over all professional and decided instead to drive a range of bottom feeders and autoretards from car firms that simply didn't exist last year. Actually, I think some of them were from countries that didn't exist last year.

My reasoning was simple. Just maybe, here in the flotsam and jetsam of the world's car makers, there'd be a little treasure, an unknown jewel with a low, low price and a cheeky zest for life.

I began with a Hyundai Sonata. It's a four-door saloon, the size of a Ford Mondeo. But unlike a Ford Mondeo it comes with all the fruit and a snarling V6 engine, all for 17,500. That's very good value. Next I tried the Kia Magentis, a four-door saloon the size of a Ford Mondeo. But unlike a Ford Mondeo, it comes with all the fruit and a snarling V6 engine ... hang on a minute, this is all sounding very familiar. I said to the man from Kia: "This is the same as the Hyundai I've just tried."

"No it isn't," he said. "There are lots of differences." "What are they?" I inquired. "Er, well, the price," he said. He had a point. The Kia Magentis is only 13,000- a meaningful 4,500 less than the pretty much identical Hyundai. So, I said to the man from Hyundai, why would anyone buy your car when for 4,500 less, they could have a Kia Magentis? "Ah," he replied in the way that suspects in The Bill say 'ah" when they know they're bang to rights, "people will pay extra for the Hyundai because of the badge."

Now, look, people will pay extra for a Porsche because of the badge. But Hyundai is a giant Korean corporation which everywhere west of Delhi, means less than diddly squat. In fact, come to think of it, I'd pay 4,500 to not have a Hyundai Sonata.

Next, I tried a Daihatsu Cuore, which is a five-door hatchback the size of a small box. It was perfectly awful to drive and plainly had been designed and made by a large corporation that was more interested in making money than cars. And then I stepped into the Perodua Kelisa which is a five-door hatchback the size of a small box. It was perfectly awful to drive and plainly had been designed and made by a large corporation that - oh no, this is double deja vu.

Once again, these cars are exactly the same, except for the price. The Daihatsu is 6,995 and the Perodua is 5,925. The only good thing about this state of affairs is that you won't want either of them. You especially won't want a Dacwoo Tacuma. This is billed as a people carrier but since it only carries five people, I think they're stretching things a hit. On that basis, a moped is a people carrier, too.

It's often said that are no bad cars any more. And it's true. There are no cars on the market today which have brakes made out of veal and engines that break down every time there's a day in the month. But the Tacuma is slow, poor at going round corners, devastatingly ugly, quite expensive, cheap to the touch, badly trimmed, and about as desirable as herpes. And if that's not a bad car, I don't know what is.

Yes I do. It's the Hyundai Matrix. Priced and styled to compete with the Tacuma its nastiness beggars belief. I drove the diesel, which is bad enough, but to make matters worse, it is no ordinary diesel. It only has three cylinders which means that the car takes a staggering l8sec to go from 0 to 60mph. This then, is not only slower than any other car on the market today, it's also slower than a horse. And uglier. It was styled by Pininfarina but I can only assume it was the work of the great man's cleaner.

So, if you're tempted to buy a cheap car from Malaysia, Korea or Rwanda, don't bother. Partly because there's almost certain to be a cheaper version of it from somewhere else. And partly because it'll be absolute rubbish.

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