Thursday, May 2, 2013

The MG CS doesn't add anything to the crossover party

THE saloon is dead. Long live the sort of hatchback-meets-people-carrier-meets-off-roader!

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for the last year or two you won’t have failed to notice that your nearest car park isn’t crammed with Mondeos and Vectras anymore; increasingly, it’s Jukes and Countrymans you’ll encounter.

Ordinary hatchbacks masquerading as off-roaders – or crossovers, as the estate agents of the motoring world would rather you and I call them - have been around for ages, as anyone familiar with the Talbot Matra Rancho (well worth a cheeky Google, by the way) will testify. The recent renaissance really took off when Nissan dropped saloons entirely and replaced the Primera with the Qashqai, following it up with the weirder but usefully smaller Juke. Since then Skoda, Renault, Chevrolet, and MINI are among the car makers vying for a chomp at the crossover cake, with Vauxhall and Peugeot set to join the party later this year.

The only problem with crossovers is they essentially fall into two categories. There’s the deliberately trendy, lifestyle-orientated offerings like the MINI Countryman and the Nissan Juke, which like Justin Bieber downloads sell in their shedloads but somehow make your mind ache slightly at their very existence.

Then there’s the likes of Toyota’s Urban Cruiser and Mitsubishi’s ASX – crossovers which do everything you could ever ask of them but are so mind-numbingly dull to behold you wonder why they bothered in the first place. Because crossovers are so style-driven, all you have to do to work out which camp yours belongs in is to have a long, hard look at it.

I worry, just a little bit, that MG’s gone for the wrong approach of the two – if their proposed offering, the CS is anything to go by.

Last year they brought a design study for a crossover, called the Icon, which divided opinion because it looked like someone had managed to take an old MG BGT, ram a bicycle pump up its exhaust pipe and pump it full of air. It might have divided opinion but the important thing is that at least people had an opinion on it, unlike the new car, which isn't a bad looking car but suggests to me that MG’s Chinese owners have chickened out and gone for the most derivative approach possible. Even the name’s boring; MG CS sounds like somewhere you’d buy a three piece suite in a Bank Holiday sale.

To summarise crossovers, no matter how many of them are being bought, are either annoyingly in-yer-face or duller than a wet weekend in Northampton, and MG isn’t helping.

In fact, I only like one; the Skoda Yeti.

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