Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Are big cars better than small ones?

THE Citroen DS5, for all its clever hybrid tech and avantgarde styling, is a big car. Which is exactly why the company's PR man reckoned I wouldn't like it.

He put it to me, as he handed me the keys for the French firm's largest and most luxurious twist on its DS range yet, that I'm a small car sort of person. Having clocked the tiny sports car I'd turned up in and read my various pieces singing the praises of the original Mini, the Renault 5 and the Suzuki Swift Sport, he suggested the DS5 was just too much car for me to love.

But there are plenty of bigger beasts - motoring's plus size models, in Daily Mail speak - I've developed a soft spot for. The Jeep Grand Cherokee, for starters, might be the size of my first student flat but it's got a charm to its character and plenty of comfort, while Jag's XF is all the executive saloon you could ever ask for.

Meanwhile, the largest motor of any kind I've driven, Ford's Transit, has a no-nonsense sort of vibe to it and a deftness of handling something of its size really shouldn't. I like it a lot. Equally, there's plenty of petite offerings that haven't floated my boat - Vauxhall's Corsa, despite being one of the best selling cars in Britain, being the prime candidate. I know loads you have got one and no doubt love it, but for my money the Fiesta, the Polo and now Peugeot's new 208 will run rings around it when quality, packaging and handling come into play. But, by and large, smaller, leaner cars are better than full fat ones, and I think the car makers no know it.

Why else would the new Range Rover have shaved half a tonne - that's a whole Caterham Seven in other words - off the weight of its predecessor? By contrast, the Land Rover Defender is a big car, but crucially, it's not an inch bigger or heavier than the nation's farmers need it to be.

The other thing everybody seems to forget is that you can make cars ever larger but the roads of Britain, save for a radical new Coalition iniative, will always remain the same size. Worth remembering when you're struggling to thread one of today's more bloated hatchbacks down a typical British B road. It's not the size that matters. It's how you use it.

All of which brings me back to the DS5, which I actually rather like. Keep an eye out for Life On Cars roadtest to find out why.

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