Wednesday, January 07, 2009

American driving priorities

As a consequence of the news indicated below – that chez Reptile is going to be blessed with increase in the Spring – I was compelled reluctantly to sell my car. A two-seater MG is all very well for Dinkys, but that lack of a rear seat, and a boot just large enough for two bottles of wine, would be tricky to maintain with a baby requiring more associated baggage than Kitchener did on the way to Khartoum. Given that I was never going to succumb to cliché, and thus was desperate to avoid buying a Golf, I settled on the only slightly less wildly impractical Alfa Romeo Brera, which at least has rear seats, even if only babies can fit in them. In choosing it I was guided by a variety of things, but I’ll admit that the look of the thing was pretty much paramount – I mean just look at it.

Apart from this there were elements like performance, efficiency (we went for the diesel in a vain attempt to prove responsibility) and price. Very grown-up it was, even if we have gone for a rather indulgent option.

We obviously didn’t even consider an American car. And the reason is that they seem to be designed for people from another planet. For example look at this. They are just starting to sell the Astra in the States. It’s a sensible small saloon, economical and perfectly adequate in most ways. And what is the first complaint levied against it in a review?

•Astra's main cup holder is so far back on the center console it's behind the driver. Even if you don't drink much while driving, the test car's console was so small that the cup holder needs to be handier for cellphones and other normal kit.

Cup holders? That’s it? Who the fuck cares? Who needs 28 cup holders in a car? What’s wrong with you people? Anything else?

•The clock's a 24-hour, military-style readout (4:30 p.m. is 16:30, for example). That's hardly a deal-breaker, maybe even better in some eyes, but it's another reminder that Americans weren't top-of-mind during development.

Oh well, a deal-breaker then. Somewhere else in the article, a pretty long way down is thrown in, as an aside, that the Astra drives oh-so-nicely. That's the Euro factor that could make you forget niggling annoyances. But the drive’s not what’s important – that’s cup-holders and analogue clocks. No wonder that they’re selling only about 1,000 Astras a month so far. And we’re surprised that Detroit is vanishing into the past at a rate of knots? Bring it on I say, at least we might get some more interesting American cars.

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