Opinion: Is the Volkswagen Golf R the ‘new Cosworth’?

Volkswagen Golf R

Search for ‘Golf R stolen’ on Google News and you’ll be presented with some grim stories. These aren’t exactly tales of the unexpected – the hot Golf has been a target for many years – but it’s the rate at which the cars are being stolen that’s most alarming.

Many are stolen from driveways in the middle of the night, with owners becoming the latest victims of the keyless theft epidemic. Even more chilling is the fact that some thieves are breaking into homes to grab the keys.

What’s the appeal, aside from the fact that the Volkswagen Golf is worryingly simple to steal? Put simply, the Golf R blends in. Plus it’s a very easy car to drive fast, with plenty of power and four-wheel-drive traction.

For armed robberies, ram-raiding and drug trafficking, the Golf R is the perfect vehicle. To passers-by, it looks like an ordinary Golf, but it packs enough punch to outrun the police if the thieves are caught in the act. Stick a pair of fake number plates on a Golf R and the criminals can move about undetected for weeks.

Last night, Harry Metcalfe tweeted a list of stolen vehicles in the Cotswolds area. Of the 32 cars on the list, 11 are Volkswagen Golf R hatchbacks or estates. That’s a third.

Metcalfe asked if the Golf R is “the new Ford Sierra Cosworth when it comes to nickability”, which is a fair question.

Like the Golf R, the ‘Cossie’ was stolen in large numbers and became the ram-raiders vehicle of choice in the 80s and 90s. The Sierra RS Cosworth was still being used as a getaway vehicle as recently as 2003.

There was a time when the RS Cosworth was virtually uninsurable. Park one outside your house and there’d be a good chance it would be gone in the morning. Some owners were followed home, with the thieves returning in the dead of the night once they knew where the car was parked overnight.

Ford Sierra RS Cosworth

It was a similar story for the Escort RS Cosworth. In common with the Sierra, its door locks were as useful as an umbrella in a blizzard, and many were stolen for some Roxette-inspired playtime. Jeremy Clarkson famously owned one and, although this might be an urban myth, I’m pretty sure he was quoted £20,000 to insure it.

What is true is the fact that he opened his front door one morning to find that somebody had half-inched the rear wing. Ford made the ‘Aero Pack‘ a delete option in 1993 – not that many owners chose to order their Cossie without the body furniture.

Few cars can boast a 20-page thread on Pistonheads entitled ‘Stolen Ford Cosworth stories’.

‘Secure your driveway’

Fast forward to 2019 and it’s easy to draw comparisons between the Cossies of the past and the Golf R of the present. Only last month, police in the North West advised Golf owners to review their home security. “Just to reiterate, we have seen a recent pattern of suspicious activity, attempt burglaries and burglaries at addresses with a Volkswagen Golf on the drive,“ the police said in a message.

“If you have a Golf, please review your home security, secure your driveway if possible. Check your CCTV and security lights work.“

Scary times if you’re a Volkswagen Golf R owner. Would you consider selling yours to buy something less likely to be stolen? Let us know in the comments section.

Opinion: Why must we go back for the future?

Morris JE electric van

‘A retro-styled electric masterpiece’, reads one headline for the Morris JE van. ‘Brilliantly retro’, says another. ‘Retro-cute’ and ‘the cutest electric van I’ve ever seen’ concludes this quartet of rather gushing and sickly-sweet intros.

I’m sorry, but I’m just not buying it. Quite literally, given the fact that the JE van is expected to sell for around £60,000 in 2021.

It’s a ‘reimagining of the original [and] iconic’ J-type van, says Morris Commercial, before describing the 1950s classic as ‘unapologetically distinctive’.

What’s the obsession with reimagining stuff from our past? What next, a reimagining of other distinctive elements of 1950s Britain, such as polio, pea-soupers and women tied to the twin-tub washing machine?

Mind you, there’s no knowing what Britain will look like two years from now.

Putting aside the pros and cons of electric vehicles for a moment, shouldn’t the designs be forward-thinking, progressive and challenging? I’m not sure a van that looks like something Mr Tumble might drive is going to do much for the EV market.

Morris JE van

The company claims it will appeal to a wide range of customers, but the list is exhausting, if not exhaustive.

Small boutique businesses, larger corporate fleets, luxury and lifestyle brands, the hospitality industry, the sport and leisure industry, high-end manufacturing, the events industry and green logistics.

And… breathe. Anyone for a game of monkey tennis?

Of those, who is going to want to drop £60k on Mr Tumble’s company wheels? I can’t see an artisan coffee company ditching the H-van for one of these. Is a fleet buyer going to say “no thank you” to the resources and support of Volkswagen, Renault, Nissan and the like?

The figures don’t add up. A range of 200 miles and a one-tonne payload might look acceptable in 2019, but the technology should have moved on by 2021. The LDV EV30 boasts another name from Britain’s ‘glorious past’, 200 miles of range and a one-tonne payload. The price? Rumoured to be in the region of £30,000.

Morris Commercial says it will create “an individuality in a market where dull, generic design is normal”. Which is one way of justifying an exorbitant price tag and a dashboard that looks straight outta LazyTown.

Vans are ‘dull’ and ‘generic’ because that’s what the market wants. These vehicles are built to do a job on time, reliably, efficiently and without fuss. Sure, there’s a place for vans without ‘clean me‘ perma-scrawled into the dirt on the back doors – I know folk who love their vans more than their family car.

It’s just that most vans I see look like they’ve been used as target practice at the local paintballing centre within a few months of hitting the road. How is the JE’s carbon-fibre body going to withstand even the lightest of damage?

I don’t doubt the hard work that’s gone into creating this ‘masterpiece’. But harking back to a bygone era hints at a lack of creativity and an absence of ideas. Besides, I have a feeling the ‘retro-cute’ market will be swallowed up by Volkswagen’s Buzz Cargo thingy.

I could be wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time). Maybe the commercial sector is waiting for Mr Tumble to roll into LazyTown in a blaze of zero emission glory. Me, I’m just waiting for someone to unearth a barn-find Bedford CF Electric.

Opinion: STOP binning car service histories

STOP binning car service histories

I know how much the original owner of my Citroen AX GT paid for the car when it was new in September 1989. I also know that he paid £92 for black paint.

I know how much a chap paid for my 1993 Volkswagen Corrado VR6 in 1997, and that he part-exchanged a 1988 Audi Coupe with 52,000 miles on the clock.

I know that in 2009, a new air conditioning condenser was fitted to my Peugeot 406 Coupe because the old one ‘was not getting cold’.

For me, having a full and detailed service history is almost essential. It’s part of a car’s provenance. A biographical insight into the car’s previous life, presented in chronological order.

A stamped service book isn’t enough. These are mere thumbnails, telling just part of the story. Who’s to say what work was done and to what extent? What parts were used? Was the car given a minor service when a major overhaul was due?

A fully stamped book backed by a wedge of receipts and invoices is the holy grail. Without them, your car’s history is as hollow as a politician’s pre-election speech.

‘Get out of litigation free’

Car dealer with receipt

But there’s a problem. In the age of GDPR – and with dealers in fear of litigation – showrooms are alive with the sound of shredders, busy making service histories a thing of the past.

I’ve heard reports of car dealers trashing service records because they contained the names and addresses of previous owners. This removes a layer of provenance from the car, particularly if it’s a classic, and could reduce its value by thousands of pounds.

Figures vary, but this report suggests a car without service history could be worth up to 40 percent less than an equivalent car with a comprehensive CV. I’d wager that in the world of historic racing cars and multi-million dollar classics, the difference could be night and day.

This isn’t a problem confined to someone like me, who gets joy – yes, joy – from finding an older car with original number plates, dealer stickers, an unused cigarette lighter, and more receipts than a sales rep’s glovebox.

In the case of a car still under warranty, if something goes wrong and the car hasn’t been maintained to the manufacturer’s schedule, the cover could be invalid. A stamp in a service book isn’t going to change that.

You can’t blame the car dealers. With the spectre of GDPR looming large – not to mention the prospect of crippling fines – recycling a tome of printed invoices is a quick ‘get out of litigation free’ card.

That said, there’s a broader concern that some unscrupulous sellers could use GDPR as an excuse to remove all traces of some of a car’s less savoury former life or to fabricate recent work. This problem was present in pre-GDPR days – how many invoices magically found their way into the bin when it was time for the car to be sold?

If in doubt, scrub it out

Man inspecting service history

New research from Cap HPI shows that 75 percent of motorists would be put off buying a car without a full service history, so this concern isn’t the preserve of sad anoraks like me.

Is it too simplistic to suggest that a seller who doesn’t want their name and address passed on to the next owner takes a black pen to the receipt? Maybe a pair of scissors would come in handy, but do ask an adult to help you with these.

Could a concerned car dealer adopt a similar approach? If in doubt, scrub it out. But please, don’t chuck it away.

According to Lawgistics, “It is fine to hand over documents about a car’s history to a new owners. Dealers wanting to follow this approach should add a sentence to reflect this processing usage in their privacy notice”. Please seek legal advice of your own.

Moving forward, could franchised dealers and independent garages produce invoices and receipts that contain no personal details? If they show the car’s make, model, registration plate, VIN number and mileage, that ought to be enough.

Common sense is required, please, before anyone gets too trigger happy with the shredding machine.

In case you’re wondering, Mr [name redacted] paid £7,634.90 for the AX. Money well spent, sir. Money well spent.

Opinion: the new Mirage will need more than just ‘Mitsubishi-ness’

New Mitsubishi Mirage

In a game of playground football, the Mitsubishi Mirage would be the last kid to be picked for a team. Then told to play in goal.

In a running race, it would be the last one to finish, crossing the line long after everyone else has packed up and gone home. The last piece of quiche left on the buffet table. The last raffle prize picked at the office Christmas party.

The Mitsubishi Mirage isn’t very good. In a world of exceptional small cars, it would be a while before some deranged thinking leads you to the Mirage, and even then you’d still contemplate taking the bus instead.

When movies are promoted using vox pops of excitable cinemagoers making hysterical claims, there’s a pretty good chance that the film will be wack. It’s going straight to DVD.

Mitsubishi has used a similar approach in the brochure for the current Mirage.

“You cannot find a better car in its class for your money,” says Zach. “I love this car! It’s adorable.”

Sorry, Zach, but even in a class of one, the Mitsubishi Mirage would struggle to be the class-leader. Google ‘really good small car’, and you’ll be presented with a list of names as long as your leg. And adorable? Pull the other one.

Mitsubishi Emptiness

Mitsubishi Mirage 2019

Even people who have zero interest in driving pleasure will be sent into a coma by the Mirage, while the rear-seat accommodation is about as inviting as an East German border post.

Mitsubishi calls it ‘first class accommodation’, which it is, if the price spent on it equates to the price of a postage stamp.

There are points in its favour: the cabin is quite spacious, the 1.2-litre engine is reasonably economical, and the top-spec version offers a decent level of kit. There’s also a tight turning circle, which will make things easier when you decide to do an emergency U-turn should you find yourself test-driving a Mirage.

To find the showroom, turn left at ‘hell freezes over’, go straight on at ‘fat chance’, then left at ‘never in a month of Sundays’. If you reach the end of the world, you’ve gone too far.

It’s just that, when cars like the Volkswagen Up, Dacia Sandero, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i10 exist, it’s hard to stake claim for something as mediocre and lacklustre as the Mitsubishi Mirage. The new one can’t come soon enough.

From Despair to Where?

2019 Mitsubishi Mirage

Mitsubishi speaks of a ‘distinctive Mitsubishi-ness’, whatever that means. If nothing else, it’ll mean that the new Mirage has a look that fits with the rest of the range. The teaser photo suggests it will be quite the looker – even the four-door saloon looks vaguely desirable.

If the Mirage can retain its lightweight construction – the current car weighs 875kg in its most basic form – it will help efficiency, and it could even make the Mirage fun to drive. Memories of the flawed but bonkers Colt Ralliart come flooding back.

It also needs an interesting dashboard and cabin. Suzuki provides the proof that you don’t need swathes of soft-touch plastics and expensive materials to make a good interior. Something that looks like the interior designers could be bothered would be a start.

The Volkswagen Group and the South Koreans have had things their own way for too long. We need a credible and interesting rival to enter the ring. The Japanese have the ingenuity and skills required to strike a blow. Let’s hope ‘Mitsubishi-ness’ can land a killer punch.

Opinion: OK, Laura – make sure the new Skoda Octavia is good

New Skoda Octavia design sketch

Skoda’s new ‘Laura’ digital assistant has mastered six languages, is comfortable with natural voice and doesn’t mind being interrupted. OK, Laura, I have one request: please make sure the new Skoda Octavia is up to scratch.

The design sketches look positive, although talk of a ‘coupe-like roofline’ could rob the Octavia of its enviable USP: practicality.

Whether in hatchback or estate form, thanks to its cavernous boot, the Skoda Octavia has always delivered. Why buy a Golf when you can buy a Golf-based hatchback with a 590-litre boot? That’s more than the BMW 3 Series Touring, Audi A4 Avant or Volvo V60.

Opt for the Octavia estate and you have access to 610 litres with the rear seats up and 1,740 litres with them folded away.

All creatures great and small

Skoda Octavia paramedic

Little wonder the wagon has become de rigueur for those who put common sense above fashion. Paramedics, rural vets, the St John Ambulance, police forces and fire and rescue services are just some of the groups and organisations that have come to rely on the Octavia.

Only last week, we had to call the vet to deal with an animal emergency at home. He arrived at 1am, in a previous-generation Octavia estate plastered in mud and loaded to the rafters with veterinary equipment. The car just gets on with it – no fuss, no glamour, no bother.

That’s the Octavia way. Even the performance vRS has understated and under-the-radar appeal. Before the arrival of my first child, when it was time to ditch the Vauxhall VX220 in favour of something with more seats, I chose a nearly-new Mk1 Octavia vRS. My son was driven home from the hospital in it – I’ve never driven with more care and attention.

It was a terrific car, with the 1.8-litre turbocharged engine providing plenty of poke, plus boot able to cope with all the paraphernalia that comes with parenthood. I can’t remember why I sold it, but it was almost certainly for something less practical and less sensible.

The Octavia is one of those rare cars I’m happy to recommend to friends and family. It’s a dangerous game – giving advice is a risky business. What if your recommendation leads to an expensive mistake? You’d be better off giving a tip for the 2:45 at Kempton Park.

But I know of two people who have taken a gamble on an Octavia on the ‘strength’ of my opinion. Fortunately, they’ve lived happily ever after.

All things wise and wonderful

Skoda Octavia Scout

Savvy motorists know a good thing when they see it, which is why the Octavia Scout seems to attract a premium on the used car market. There’s something ‘old money’ about the Scout: a soft-road wagon for those who are confident in their own skin. The thinking person’s Audi Allroad. The less ostentatious Mercedes-Benz E-Class All-Terrain. The only rural wagon you’ll ever need.

Check this out: a 2019 Skoda Octavia Scout for £24,000. That’s nearly £10,000 less than the price of a Karoq Scout. The Octavia is more practical, better to drive and will look better parked outside the farm shop. There’s no contest.

I guess there’s a wider point to this post, and it concerns the diminishing appeal of the Skoda brand. Granted, it’s a personal opinion, but I believe it’s worth sharing.

Like all volume brands, Skoda has thrown its might behind a range of SUVs. The Kodiaq was followed by the Karoq, with the Kamiq the latest crossover to hit showrooms. All worthy, all a match for their immediate rivals, all bang on trend.

But there’s a danger that Skoda is losing sight of what made the brand so appealing to free-thinkers and those not swayed by fashion or trends. The SUVs are great and are what the market demands, but Skoda needs to maintain a gap between it and the Volkswagen mothership. Some clear space to leave room for individuality.

It’s this space that gave us the Felicia Fun, the Fabia vRS diesel, the Roomster and the Yeti. Much as I adore the Superb, especially in 272hp 2.0-litre petrol guise, I miss the cars that made Skoda feel like Volkswagen’s quirky Czech mate.

Let’s hope the new Octavia continues to major on practicality, with a keen price and an acknowledgment of what has made the first three generations so successful. The alternative is more people migrating to Skoda SUVs, and that’s a future we can all do without. 

Opinion: Your village NEEDS an electric charging point

Rural electric charging point

Around 400 village shops close every year, while nearly 40 pubs close their doors for good every month.

Admittedly, not all of these pubs will be found in rural locations, but a boarded-up boozer in the countryside is a depressingly common sight. Time, ladies and gentlemen, last orders at the bar.

Soon, the only people left in the village will be Escape to the Country presenters, commercial property agents armed with ‘TO LET’ boards and Waze disciples on an alternative route home.

How can we inject new life into our rural villages? No, not a ‘guess the weight of a marrow‘ competition or a Strictly Come Maypole Dancing event. What every village in the country needs is an electric car charging point.

The government is dishing out grants for electric vehicle charging points like a car magazine gives out awards, so for parish councils it needn’t mean a choice between a dog poo bin for the village green or a charging point.

Under the Workplace Charging Scheme, public sector organisations can apply for up to £500 per socket at 75 percent of the total cost of installation, up to a maximum of 20 sockets.

Most urban dwellers are too busy staring into their smartphone in Costa to visit your village fete or tombola, but offer them an electric charging point and they’ll be pulling up outside the derelict Crown Inn faster than you can say: “Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free, peanut-free and soya-free cappuccino to go, please.”

Village pub closure

A Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee document published last year missed the point of the charging network’s role in reshaping village life. It said: “Rural areas are expected to be critical to the alleviation of so-called ‘range anxiety’, since they are home to the majority of motorway service areas, where rapid charge points would provide drivers with a means to refuel and complete long journeys.”

With all due respect, or whatever it is people say in parliament when they’re about to disagree with something, there’s more to rural regions than motorway service areas.

It wouldn’t take a lot to tempt EV drivers away from a motorway services. Instead of tasteless fried food and coffees that cost a small mortgage payment, they could be enjoying the warm embrace of country folk.

With a steady influx of range-poor and time-rich EV drivers, you can tear down the Heras fencing that surrounds the pub and turn it into a community shop. Electric car drivers are accustomed to spending inflated prices for food and drink, so you’ll be earning cash faster than the Pimm’s tent at last summer’s village fete.

Village fete

In next to no time you’ll have enough spare money to remove the Japanese knotweed from the duck pond, replace the roof on the parish church and send your parish councillors to that obscure village you’re twinned with in Normandy.

Admittedly, you’ll need to find a way to disguise the charging unit. Most are as aesthetically pleasing as pebbledash on a Georgian townhouse, so maybe one could sit in the disused telephone box.

It’s a win-win situation. The electric car driver gets access to a greater number of charging points, the village welcomes more visitors since the time the National Express coach took a wrong turning off the bypass, and the government gets a glimmer of hope that it might achieve its emissions targets.

Parish councillors, stick the erection of electric charging points on your next agenda. It’ll make a change from discussing late bin collections, dog waste in the sports field and who should clean the public toilets.

Opinion: This Mini is half the price, but not half the fun

Mini One Classic opinion

Whichever way you look at it, £34,995 for a new Mini is a lot of money. I’m not going to venture down the ‘Mini car, Maxi price’ alley, but £35k for a supermini? Ouch.

Sure, it comes with a Nurburgring lap time, but I’ve seen coaches, campervans and even Chrysler PT Cruisers lapping the big toll road in the trees, so that’s no big deal.

To be honest, I wouldn’t care if the Henry Cooper Works Doctor came with a dinner date with Keeley Hawes and a lifetime supply of Hobnobs, because it still seems expensive. Actually, thinking about it, the Hawes and Hobnobs thing could tip the balance in favour of the hot hatch.

Naked attraction

I digress. My biggest problem the hardcore Mini isn’t the price, it’s the fact that maximum Mini thrills are available at a more affordable price. Like, less than half the price.

The Mini three-door Hatch One Classic is a rather awkward name for a quite brilliant car. This is the modern Mini in a state of undress – laid bare for a warts and all examination of the car’s famed ‘go-kart’ handling.

It costs £16,195, which is just £200 more than an entry-level Ford Fiesta. For that you get LED lights galore, air conditioning, multi-function steering wheel, a 6.5-inch display, vegan-friendly seats, Bluetooth, DAB digital radio and 15-inch steel wheels.

Mini One Classic on steel wheels

Yes, steel wheels. Forget what you might have read in What Glamour? magazine, because owning a small car with steel wheels is a rite of passage. It’s like the transition from the nursery slopes to the black run – first you must prove your mettle with a set of steelies.

The Mini One Classic is powered by one of the best three-pots in the business. In this form, the BMW 1.5-litre twin-turbo produces 102hp, which isn’t going to set any ‘Ring records, but is more than enough to raise a smile on the inner ring road.

At 44.8mpg to 47.9mpg, it’s also the most frugal Mini Hatch, short of putting your name down and waiting in line for the electric version. But unlike the leccy one, the Mini One offers enough range for a Londoner to take a day trip to Crich Tramway Village near Matlock without breaking into a sweat.

Other tramway museums are available. Probably.

Just say no

Clearly, Mini has made a mint out of a business model that encourages dealers to encourage punters into upgrading to a more expensive model. Mini would rather you didn’t buy a three-door Hatch One Classic, not when there are countless trim levels, engines, packs, options and accessories to choose from.

Anyone who leaves a Mini showroom with a £16,195 Mini has either mastered the art of saying “no” or is a former cast member of Grange Hill.

I’m fully aware that the list price is largely irrelevant, so the fact that the Mini One Classic is available on PCP or PCH for £199 a month will be music to the ears of Generation Rent. Granted, the rear seats are best reserved for child contortionists, and the ride is a little on the firm side, but if your heart is set on a Mini, I doubt you’ll care.

It’s also fair to say that the Fiesta offers better value for money and greater practicality, so the rational money would be on the Ford. But that’s missing the point of this pointless opinion piece.

Personally, I think Mini could go further by targeting its entry-level model at the under 25s, offering free telematics-based insurance and other incentives to get them behind the wheel. In a few years, they might want to ‘upgrade’ to a Sport, Cooper or JCW, but I suspect they’ll be having too much fun in the One Classic to even notice.

Still want that Nurburgring special, etc, etc?

Finally, Vauxhall has made a decent car advert

Vauxhall Motability advert

Vauxhall has been responsible for some truly shocking television adverts. Proper snotters that shouldn’t have got further than the ad agency’s beautifully appointed presentation room.

‘Pyjama Mamas’ was a recent horror show. Vauxhall called it its ‘cheekiest campaign to date’, promising to deliver ‘attitude, confidence and swagger’. Three words you wouldn’t use to describe a Vauxhall crossover. The misplaced self-confidence of the advert was only slightly less painful than the sound of someone dragging their nails down a blackboard.

Katie Mackay, head of strategy at Mother, the agency responsible for the campaign, said, “In a sea of SUV sameness, it’s been a joy to give the Crossland X a platform that befits the swagger and style of the car and its future drivers, while giving Vauxhall a contemporary voice in British culture.”

Kind of ironic, given that the Crossland X is the perfect representation of ‘SUV sameness’. Swaggerz. Lolz.

Vauxhall Pyjama Mamas

In 2013, Vauxhall murdered a classic Ian Dury track in the name of the Astra. Some songs should be covered – God bless Joe Cocker for perfecting With A Little Help From My Friends – but others should be left well alone. Sheryl Crow should have known better than to attempt Sweet Child O’ Mine

Back to Vauxhall. Some of us are still scarred by the sight of a bearded Griff Rhys Jones in blue Y-fronts – and sales of the VX220 never truly recovered.

The one shining light in a little fog of horrors is the advert showing Cavaliers being crash tested, but this might have something to do with the genius of Peter Gabriel.

But now, Vauxhall has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the Motability Scheme. There are no Y-fronts, weird puppets, small children with grown-up voices, Rule Britannia guff or reverse snobbery nonsense.

Instead, it’s down-to-earth, touching and simple. Better to hear real people singing a classic song, than to hear yet another slowed down, piano-rich and whimsical murder of a famous tune. Speaking of which, it’ll soon be time for the Christmas ads…  

Audi A1 Citycarver: where is the urban jungle exactly?

Audi A1 Citycarver urban jungle

Audi says the A1 Citycarver is a car ‘for the urban jungle’. Not knowing where the urban jungle is, I Googled it, only to discover that it’s a garden centre and cafe near Norwich. And you thought the Honda Jazz was the choice of transport for garden centre enthusiasts.

I’m not entirely sure a jacked-up supermini dressed up to look like Baymax in armour is required for a trip along the A11, but Audi has a habit of discovering niches and filling them.

I jest. The Audi A1 Citycarver is actually a Rover Streetwise for people too young to remember the Rover Streetwise. You weren’t aware that you needed an Audi Streetwise, but the marketing commandos will be deployed to ensure you spend every waking hour wondering how you coped without one.

Citycarver? Depending on your age, you’re either thinking of a detective chief inspector from The Bill, or a media mogul from Tomorrow Never Dies. Or maybe you’re thinking it sounds like the name given to an unsavoury character on Crimewatch.

But don’t have nightmares, because the A1 Citycarver is little more than a city-friendly Audi A1 with 4cm of additional ground clearance, body cladding to make it look like an A1 Allroad, and front-wheel-drive to ensure that it’s not.

Audi A1 Citycarver

It costs from £22,040, which isn’t a lot for an Audi, but by the time you’ve added a few choice options and accessories, you’ll be knocking on the door of £30,000, which is a lot for a supermini. Even one with an Audi badge.

All of which is beginning to sound like the Audi A1 Citycarver gives me an irrational desire to throw a hot cake at the wall and mutter something about the days before Audi became as popular as a Kylie Jenner Instagram post.

But I’m feeling quite calm about the Jim Carver. I have a feeling it could steal sales from the Audi Q2, which could be the best thing to happen to our roads since the Romans brought a 12-inch ruler to these shores.

Carvery menu

Some people spend close to £40,000 on a Q2, which is a staggering amount of cash for a compact crossover. Let that sink in for a moment – £40k on a small crossover. There’s just something so unimaginative about buying a Q2. Why not spend £18,000 on the marginally less attractive Ford Ecosport and treat the kids to a good holiday?

An Elliot Carver costs £680 less than the Q2 and is only slightly smaller. You have to sacrifice 70 litres of boot space, but that seems like a small penalty when you consider the level of standard equipment.

Audi A1 Citycarver interior

LED headlights, LED rear lights , dynamic rear indicators, a 10.25 digital cockpit and 17-inch alloy wheels are must-have toys for the Audi driver, and they’re all fitted as standard.

The basic Q2 has to make do with halogen headlights, which, to your image-obsessed colleagues, will be a signal that you’ve given up on life. If you want LED lights and dynamic indicators, you’ll need to spend at least £26,370 on the Q2 S line.

If you’re after 17-inch alloys and the digital cockpit, you’ll require the Q2 Sport (£24,120), plus the optional Tech Pack (£1,495).

Audi says the A1 Citycarver is available with two engines, but its UK website is showing one. It’s a 30 TFSI, which sounds exciting, but you’ll need access to an Enigma machine to work out what it is.

What is clear is that the Citycarver will sell like pumpkins at Halloween. You may not want one, but I bet you know of at least a dozen people who would. A Honda Jazz remains a superior car for a trip to the Urban Jungle garden centre cafe, mind. Anyone for a slice of carrot cake?

60 years of our love-hate relationship with the motorway

60 years of the M1 motorway

“Take it easy, motorist,” was the advice given to drivers by Ernest Marples as he officially opened the M1 motorway on this day in 1959.

“If in doubt, don’t,” he warned, as if to pre-empt the behaviour of motorists as they took to the motorway for the first time. In those days, of course, the speed limit wasn’t governed by legislation, simply by what a car could manage.

Perhaps more importantly, the top speed was limited by the courage and talent of the motorist. Accidents were commonplace, as drivers realised they lacked the skills of Messrs Hawthorn, Hill and Clark.

Less than five years later, Jack Sears hit 185mph in an AC Cobra Coupe GT on the M1, using the motorway to do a test run ahead of the Le Mans 24 Hours. As Sears said in an Autocar article, “many teams were using the motorway for test runs”, including Rootes Group, Jaguar and Aston Martin.

A 70mph speed limit was introduced in July 1967, although the legislation doesn’t appear to have been influenced by the antics of Sears in 1964.

Oh that motorway, ain’t it a thrill to be so free

Congestion on the M1 motorway

To mark the 60th anniversary of Britain’s first city to city motorway, the Guardian has published an article from October 1959, which is best read with the style of a Pathé newsreader in your head.

The 72 miles from London to Birmingham increased the length of Britain’s motorway network to 80 miles. Today, that figure is around 2,300 miles – less than 1 percent of the entire road network.

But the importance of the motorway network cannot be underestimated. Last year, motorways carried 69 billion vehicle miles of traffic – up 10.9 percent on the same period in 2008.

The Ministry of Transport estimated that an average of 14,000 vehicles a day would use the M1 between London and Birmingham in 1960, reducing casualties by 500 and saving 2.7 million hours of driving.

We’ve developed a kind of love-hate relationship with the motorway network, relying on it to reach our destination quickly, efficiently and without fuss. When the network delivers on its promise, we don’t give it a second thought.

But when something goes wrong – accidents, Bank Holiday traffic and congestion – we moan that the network is creaking at the seams and not fit for purpose. Visiting a motorway service area tends to give us something to moan about, too. Still, it makes a change from the weather.

Back in the 1960s, motorways were destinations in themselves. People would visit the three-lane ribbons of adventure that could move cars like a conveyor belt of shopping in a supermarket. Restaurants would cater for the motorway tourists, who’d watch the traffic go by behind huge expanses of glass. Those days are gone.

Riding down the motorway, cats eyes, cold meat pies

M1 motorway Redbourn

Today, the motorway is facing a period of change. Smart motorways are arguably the most controversial thing to hit the network since the 70mph speed limit, while a future of autonomous cars could change the way we use the roads forever.

Reading old newspaper reports makes for fascinating reading. In a separate Guardian article, the editorial slams the ‘slow progress’ of the construction programme and draws a comparison with Victorian railway promoters.

‘No one can say when the M1 will be finished,’ it grumbles, before highlighting the proposed expansion of the network, including, quite interestingly, the M3 stretching all the way to Exeter.

‘In an age of serious contemplation of travel to the moon it seems senseless that no British Government has yet devised means of enabling traffic to move more freely on the ground at home,’ it concludes.

We’ve since been to the moon and back – and have sent a car into space – but moving freely on the motorway seems out of reach to the beleaguered commuters on the M25, M1 and M6. Take it easy out there.