Thursday, May 17, 2012
I think I might have found the worst car in the world
It is - drumroll please - a Peugeot 407 I borrowed the other day, which I entrusted with the task of getting me to Ormskirk and back on the hunt for a story for our West Lancashire edition. Note, by the way that it's a specific 407 rather than the breed as a whole, because I'm convinced other examples would be capable, if not astonishingly brilliant, Mondeo-baters.
Nor is this a dig against Peugeots because, by and large, the company's upped its game in recent years. The RC-Z coupe might lack a little involvement when you really chuck into a corner on a challenging road, but well-made, sensibly-priced and utterly wonderful to look at. The 508 - the 407's successor - is arguably the best of the repmobiles right now. True, I haven't driven the new 3-Series yet but right now it's the Pug that's got the measure of the Mondeo and the Insignia.
No, this particular 407 was bad because while the clock read 79,000 miles, it might as well have done 79 million, because it showed what an excess of miles and lack of love can do to even the most modern of motors. Funnily, there does seem to be a correlation between cars which have been ragged to within an inch of their lives and the Peugeot badge. I don't know why, but there just is.
The seven-year-old example sounded... well, it sounded a bit sick. The dashboard lit up like a disco with all the warning lights, a soundtrack of warning bongs and beeps provided the accompanying soundtrack and the key actually broke while I was trying to start it. It also came with a great radio - Radio One, which you couldn't turn off, or even turn down because the audio controls were broken. Not that the din of Chris Moyles bothered me much, because he was drowned out by a diesel engine which rattled like something you'd find fitted to a Ukranian trawler.
If it's any conselation it was at least comfy, spacious, sipped fuel with all the frugality of a budget-strapped Cabinet minister and - unlike quite a few cars I've owned - it did at least make its destination without breaking down. It's also probably a bit unfair to blame the car itself for being a bit battle-weary, but it provide a profound insight into what can happen to a car years after it's rolled out of the showroom.
It's also handy, if you're always driving cars that are at the very least quite good - as brand new motors usually are these days - to drive a really, really bad one once in a while. It gives you a sense of perspective.