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    Wanted: good cars to drive slowly

    The need for speed? I need a car for congestion

    5w ago


    If you live in a city as I do, you’ll spend most of your time while in the car sitting in traffic. And this got me thinking about how we value cars.

    You see, when we talk about how good a car is, we review its good looks, what the top speed is, whether it has sport mode, diff locks and many other things. But, what we don’t ever really rate, at least not highly, is what the car is like when not moving at all.

    And I think that’s strange, because I reckon most of the time we spend in a car nowadays is spent in the slow lane. Either slugging along in traffic jams, picking up your kids, going through average speed checks or sat stationary, admiring a wonderful view, or engaging in some rumpy pumpy.

    But, yet, we very rarely rate a car on its still-ability. This is probably for good reason. Why would anyone care if the Ferrari 458’s brake pedal isn’t ergonomic enough? I certainly don’t. It is a car for moving quickly.

    However, if you are a wealthy Sheikh living in London, it probably is especially important. London is the 6th most congested city on Earth. I suspect to Mr Sheikh a traffic friendly Aventador or Model X Tesla would trump a track happy Vulcan.

    At a more normal level, I’ve certainly started choosing cars based on their accessibility at slow speed. The Volkswagen Polo, for example, is a brilliant car for going A to B. But for stopping and starting in traffic, I’d rather have a camel. And, again, the Electric Golf. A supremely epic car but, at low speeds, it goes all HAL 9000, "I'm sorry, Tom. This journey is too important for you to jeopardize it."

    But, then you have cars which are just such nice places to be in at slow speed. I was driving a new Toyota Corolla recently. An awful car when moving at pace, however, stuck in a 30-minute traffic jam, sitting in the cabin felt like an executive boardroom – I’m just surprised it didn’t come with free pens.

    Arguably, these qualities are already ranked and rated in car reviews. From speaking about the comfy seats to the dash display. And that’s great. But, there is certainly a special quality about a car that makes going nowhere fun, rather than needing speed.

    And with more people driving than ever before due to coronavirus, perhaps finding good cars to drive slowly will become a more important trait when we’re all jammed up.

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    Comments (36)

    • there is nothing better than sitting in the traffic in the phantom

        1 month ago
    • Get a bike. Sitting in a long line of other people, each inside a large metal box weighing over a tonne and barely moving, it's the height of idiocy.

        1 month ago
      • arriving wet, cursing and hating everybody, and watching the weather like fate is much more better of course. And biking on ice, that'll keep you on your toes for sure.

          1 month ago
      • Motorcyclists are too busy huffing their farts to pay attention to the drawbacks of riding compared to driving.

          1 month ago
    • You make a good point. I live in suburban London and we spend little time on open roads, and most drives consist of a series of spurts of a few hundred metres punctuated by waits. The first thing that was a real issue with my last car, a Saab 9-3, was the clutch. When you drive for an hour at a time having to change gear every few seconds, especially as you get older, eventually the clutch will give you a backache. So last year I made the move to a dct and I’ll never go back to a manual while I live in town. What you also need when you’re sitting in traffic is a comfortable seat, climate control, a decent stereo and good connectivity so you can do phone calls. Also in town a satnav is handy. If you have an ICE, it’s good to have auto stop/start so you don’t pollute when you aren’t moving. A lot of the small crossovers that we criticise for having puny engines and pathetic performance suddenly start to make a lot more sense.

        1 month ago
      • Exactly! I used to mock hybrids and the like, but being able to teeter along just on a battery at slow speeds is so much more cost-effective and helpful to polar bears.

          1 month ago
    • My solution is to live somewhere that my car is rarely stationary when occupied.

        1 month ago
    • depends how far into London you are, if you are in central i would recommend a electric car due to the congestion charge but if you dont drive into that area like myself who lives in HIllingdon and occasionally goes into the ULEZ, i have a MK3 Hybrid Yaris, (auto) has all the tech you need on it, reverse camera, DAB, bluetooth, keyless start, its a very simple to drive and parts are cheap, not thrilling to drive in corners or high speed but its so nice in stop start traffic. also it is ULEZ free and £0 road tax.

        1 month ago
      • Well interesting, the car I've really enjoyed recently for its performance in London is the hybrid Corolla - which isn't too dissimilar to the Yaris - like brothers really. I'm in Hammersmith so often dipping into the ULEZ. And sadly with...

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          1 month ago
      • I would personally own an electric car as the ranges are getting better but for price of a new ZOE or Honda E you could get a used Tesla, all at the 30K mark however charging it is a issue still for me, but a Jap Hybrid, which has all the gadgets on it...

        Read more
          1 month ago


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