Mazda 5 Sport

One day, this car will rule the world, says Michael Booth

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Indy Lifestyle Online

Would suit The whole world
Price £16,350-17,950
Maximum speed 120mph
Performance 0-60mph in 10.6 seconds
Combined fuel economy 44.9mpg
Further information 08457 484 848

I have been meaning to share a theory of mine with you for some time now: as grown ups, I think we can all agree that spending more than £20,000 on a car is childish and silly. With a few exceptions, up to around the £20,000 mark, cars tend to be at least as much about practicality and value as they are about pose and flash. Even the exceptions, such as the Caterham, which is very silly, dole out a good dose of fun, which is still a perfectly legitimate reason to buy a car. Go above £20,000, however, and, though you are still buying something with an engine, four wheels, seats and a chassis, you are really paying for a posh badge, excess power, possibly monstrous size, vulgar jewellery, never-to-be-used off-road ability or, in the case of the Porsche Cayenne, all of the above. Above £20,000, cars become even more of a status symbol, a salve for our insecurities and a message to the neighbours, along with our clothes, houses and haircuts (well, obviously not my haircut, but you get my point). What a waste of time, money and energy.

I know I shouldn't be saying this, and I'll be drummed out of the Guild of Automotive Anoraks, but what if they only made one car? Imagine a world where we didn't need to give a second thought to what car we would buy, to whether a Lexus sends a "better message" than an Audi, whether a BMW X5 is too chav, or a Volvo XC90 too Guildford. Imagine a world where we spent our time and money on more important things, like brewing our own beer or reading Grazia, instead of tying up the cost of 40 family holidays in something that will spend at least 22 hours of every day standing still. Imagine the economies of scale if they only built one car, if from Hindustan to Hull, Beijing to Burgess Hill everyone was driving the same thing. I thought we were on the verge when Toyota, Citroën and Peugeot unveiled their Aygo/C1/107 joint venture, but these three near-identical cars are actually quite pricey. Get this thing rolling globally and they would probably only cost a fiver - plus my royalty for coming up with the idea.

I admit Top Gear would get a bit dull, and motor shows wouldn't hold quite the same appeal, but the really tricky part would be finding a car that can be all things to all people. As you can see I've been driving a Mazda 5 Sport this week, and I think that it could be the one: it's not too big, but not too small. It is immensely versatile: it can seat either five or seven people, does all that folding-seat stuff, and because it has sliding doors, access is straightforward for young and the borderline obese alike. Yes, sliding doors are a definite must for Booth's Universal Motor (no acronym, thanks).

The new diesel version manages 44.9mpg, which will help avert the impending oil crisis; it's a Mazda so, though it might feel a little cheap, it will outlive us all; and it's based on the Ford C-Max, so its multi-link rear suspension means it is surprisingly fruity on the road and will keep the keen drivers happy. There are great curtains of airbags waiting to descend should you bump into anything, and the controls are clear and simple so you can focus on the road instead of being distracted by flashing LCD displays or chronograph-style speedometers.

Ah, if I ruled the world... you'd have an awful job finding your car in the car park, for one thing.

It's a classic: Ford Mondeo

I have to confess, my idea for a world car is not entirely new. You could argue that the VW Beetle was the first world car, or the Peugeot 504. However, Ford was the first company to make a serious, conscious attempt at building one.

The Mondeo - "world" in Spanish - was launched in 1993, intended as mega mass-produced a car suited to all markets. Blander in style than its predecessor, the "soap dish" Sierra, the Mondeo was, nevertheless, a fine saloon.

It sold well right from the start, becoming the first choice for fleet buyers and winning countless awards, including European Car of the Year, helped by features such as all-independent suspension, ABS and airbags. Available in five-door hatchback, saloon and estate flavours, the ultimate versions are the luxurious Ghia X and sporty 3-litre V6 ST220.

The sheer longevity of the Mondeo is a testament to its brilliance - Ford is only now readying its replacement, which is due for launch next year.

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