"NEE-NAW-NEE-NAW-NEE-NAW", said every marked Police Vehicle ever. A story which has an odd romance to it, that every car enthusiast finds themselves both pondering and fearing. And to say you don't gulp at the sight of a 2.0 CDTI Vauxhall Astra Estate, with a trim so basic Vauxhall can only dub it as 'ES', would make you a liar. But it's okay to fear the Blue and Yellow, because it doesn't matter what car you're driving; it will ALWAYS be faster than yours.
Now, there is something commendable about it, really. Isn't there? As someone who has seen the finer workings of a Police car (not from being arrested I feel obligated to point out), I can tell you that they are unbelievably tough vehicles - even if it is 'just an Astra'. These vehicles come out of the factory as a basic spec family estate car, for the people in life whom are happily satisfied by the 108bhp and modest 12.2 second 0-62 time. Coupled with the rather astonishing 62MPG and £20 road tax, and you can see why this £17,000 (o.t.a) is an appealing buy. Lest we forget that the car comes with a lifetime warranty too. Admittedly, the handling is flakey and being a FWD estate it's hardly designed for a jolly up a B-Road at 70mph +, but it makes up for that with a comfortable suspension set up and ever so polite seating position. For a consumer then, the Astra is a sensible car choice if you're into buying new and this is before any dealer incentives or part exchanges. So when you walk into your local Vauxhall dealership and ask for say, 100 of them, your mind can only image the amount of spare change that'll be left over for the procurement of donuts and coffee. Whack a light bar on the roof, stick some high vis transfers on the side, pop some traffic cones in the boot, and you're not far off having a car that is more than capable of the job.
The Vauxhall Astra. Takes more punishment than a Bieber fan at a Slipknot concert. If you're into that, that is.
Now of course, they're still limited to their rather poultry top speed of 123mph, but when being driven by one of our lads or lasses in blue these machines are more than capable of it. As you'll more than likely be aware, a 999 call to the Police means they have to get there post-haste with no messing around. Therefore, under the law, they can 'fire up the Astra' (doesn't have the same ring to it, does it?) and make with blues and two's to wherever you need them. Imagine that you live 5 miles away from the nearest free unit of officers, and then imagine that within 5-6 minutes they turn up at your doorstep. Like I said, fastest cars on the road. These cars take a reasonably high level of strain and its no surprise that most 3 year old Astra's have a good 110,000 on the clock, given that they're used for most of the 24-hour day. Think of them as trusty St Bernard's; getting on in age and with each day they catch the frisbee with just a little less vigour - but mention 'walkies' and they bound to with every drop of energy they can muster up.
And then comes along Spot, the younger little cocker spaniel with more adrenaline than a BMX riding youth full of Red Bull. We dub thee, the Peugeot 308 Hatchback and SW. The UK's answer to the next generation of Police cars. A government contract saw a change to over half of the UK's Police fleet to newer models from Peugeot and Volvo and BMW amongst others, fitting the needs of our firearm, traffic and local response officers. The similarly priced 308 comes with almost identical specs as the Vauxhall, though produced from a 1.6l e-HDi Diesel instead of a 2.0 CDTI. Of course, this means an output of 113bhp which is slightly more than the Astra, and a 0-62 in only 11.2, a second quicker than it's St. Bernard's counterpart. It was awarded Car of the year 2014, would you believe, and I'm pretty sure it won Crufts as well.
It's fair to say that neither the Spaniel or the St. Bernard's are particularly exciting cars. Strip back the law enforcement uniform they wear, and you've got two family cars with ample performance and an atmosphere which would bore The Queen. But thats what makes any car you place in policeman overalls brilliant, the reliance we have on them to do a job, and to do it bloody well.
Perhaps then, we take our Police cars for granted. The simplicity of the Astra, 308, even the 320d BMW you might see barrelling up and down the M1, might make them cars to forget, but I'm sure when you need them the most, you'll remember them.