THE residents of the pretty village of Cattal, about halfway between Harrogate and York, must have got fed up of seeing me driving past today.
I've just got back from SMMT North - a Yorkshire-based spin-off on the motoring media's annual speed dating event at the Millbrook Proving Ground - where I've put a dirty dozen of the latest automotive arrivals through their paces. Well, 13 cars actually, if you count the fact I drove two very different versions of Ford's Focus.
In a way, it's actually more educational than the Millbrook day because while you can't push the roadtesting envelope as far as you can at a private testing ground, you do get to find out how everything from Smart cars to Bentley convertibles actually cope with real roads in the real world. In fact, I always put the cars I'm lucky enough to get a go in through the same thirty minute route, because it combines a bit of everything; a blast up the A1(M) motorway, a sprint along some sweeping A-roads, a chance to show off in the handling stakes on some twisty B-roads, and a pootle through Cattal, presumably to the residents' chargrin.
I'll let you know over the next couple of weeks whether I reckoned the new cars I tried were up to scratch, but here's a round-up of some of the motoring snippets I've picked up:
- Good things come to those who wait. Regular readers might remember that I couldn't be bothered with the Alton Towers style queues for the Subaru BRZ but a twenty minute wait got me behind the wheel of its sister car, the Toyota GT-86. I'm now in a position to reveal whether it deserves all the hype it's had...
- The Ssangyong Korando was a completely different animal. Although I drove one at Millbrook, it felt seriously out of sorts in the ride and handling stakes, so rather than write up a road test I decided to wait, take a different car out, and hope the problems I encountered on the test track were confined to just one rogue car. Luckily, they were.
- Suzuki's Kizashi is the perfect antidote for any fed up with optional extras bumping up the cost of their new car.
- Ford's Fiesta - the Life On Cars car of the year in 2009, don't forget - is no longer the best supermini you can buy.
- The Land Rover Defender, which I've been familiar with since childhood but never actually driven until today, is terrible at almost all the things I look for in a car. Yet I still stepped out of it with a smile on my face.
- I'm now able to resolve a motoring dispute which has raged for months in The Champion offices.
- Being spoilt by brand new cars always makes your own motor feel a bit old, slow and clunky - how did one of the best small sports cars of all time suddenly feel a bit lethargic and skittish when I got back into it? I had to go back home via the Buttertubs Pass just to make sure it still handled as brilliantly as I remembered it...
Road tests of all the cars I've driven today will be online here in the coming weeks.
A special thanks to the people of Cattal for their patience in the making of this feature