Motoring: what gives them character and sorts the desirable from the competent

"THEY SAY best men are moulded out of faults/And, for the most, become much more the better/For being a little bad."

Shakespeare may never have dreamt of cars, even though fellow savant Leonardo da Vinci had designed one (of sorts) 100 years before Measure For Measure left the Bard's quill. Nevertheless, what Shakespeare wrote about men is just as true of machines. The very best cars have small faults. It is what gives them character and helps to differentiate the most desirable cars - such as Ferraris and BMWs - from the most competent, such as Toyotas.

Toyota makes the world's most reliable cars. They are easy to use, don't cost a fortune to run and do their jobs faultlessly. The Japanese and the Americans, who buy cars for practical rather than emotional reasons, love them. Yet we in Europe covet thoroughbreds, even though some of us ("I only buy a car to get from A to B!") deny as much. Toyotas don't sell in Europe because we find them boring.

I saw a survey a few years back which listed the two most desirable cars in Britain as the Volkswagen Golf GTi and the BMW 3-series. Neither is as reliable as a Toyota Corolla. Yet they look good, go very well, and have a certain sporty cachet. They are all the better, to quote Shakespeare, "for being a little bad". They are noisier than you might expect on the motorway, ride firmly, handle with sharpness and lack of forgiveness (especially the BMW).

They have both just been replaced, and in the past few weeks I've driven both newcomers. The GTi on test was the non-turbo 125bhp version, which is better handling and more responsive than the pricier turbo model. It is a good car - well made, lovely cabin, fast enough, probably very reliable. In all, perfectly adequate transport, with the added cachet of having that Golf GTi badge.

Yet it lacks some of the quirks of the earlier GTis. VW has made the new GTi more refined, quieter and altogether more grown-up. It is invariably what happens when a very good sporting car is "improved". By making it more refined, some of the animal magic which made earlier GTis so hugely special and so very desirable, is taken away. The new Golf GTi is now rather like other good, hotter-than-average hatchbacks.

The same is true, for the same reason, of the new BMW 3-series. It is a superior car to the Golf, unsurprisingly considering its higher price (pounds 27,500 for the top-range 328i SE, as tested). For my money, BMW has done a better job of keeping the 3-series flame alight than Volkswagen has with the Golf GTi badge. Yet, the new 3-series - more refined than its predecessor - is no longer "the ultimate driving machine". It is too much of an all-rounder. Some of the purity has been diluted even if, arguably, its appeal is now broader. Once again, the search for extra refinement has reduced the key strength of the car - the brilliant driving experience. It is a car with undeniably fewer faults. And is the worse for it.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

    Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

    £40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

    Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

    Day In a Page

    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
    10 best PS4 games

    10 best PS4 games

    Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
    Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

    Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

    Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
    Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

    ‘Can we really just turn away?’

    Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

    Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

    ... and not just because of Isis vandalism
    Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

    Girl on a Plane

    An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

    The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent