The Verdict: Qpod
The QPod offering from Noel Edmonds' Unique Motor Company, will certainly get you noticed, but can you live it down, asks Sean O'Grady
Tuesday 25 October 2005
Price: £4,195 + VAT
Engine: 4-stroke single cylinder air cooled; 340cc
Performance: Top speed of about 40mph
Worth considering: Quad bike; used Smart; Mr Blobby outfit and a pogo stick
Thomas Jewitt, our 11-year-old co-tester whose contribution you'll find next to this column, has never heard of Noel Edmonds. Not just " I-sort-of-might-have-heard-of-someone-whose-name-sounds-like-Noel-Edmonds. Not "maybe". Not "of course" just to satisfy an adult. No; he had no more idea of who Noel Edmonds was than I have of 50 Cent (which is none, to remove any vestigial doubt in your mind on that). Thus can Britain now be divided, between the coming generation, who know nothing of Noel, and the rest of us, who know Mr Tidy Beard's CV inside out: Radio 1 Breakfast Show; Multicoloured Swapshop; The Late, Late Breakfast Show; Mr Blobby and Wrinkly Arse (OK, Crinkly Bottom then); the end of his time at the BBC; marital breakdown. He even did Top Gear, you know. Some of us grew up with Noel.
So what's he up to now? QPod. This is the tiny car he imports from a French manufacturer named Secma and is marketed over here by Edmonds' Unique Motor Company. Unique has signed up some dealers and are still looking for recruits. Would you want a franchise? Would you want a QPod?
I wouldn't. I did, because I had to, drive it from just about the furthest point east in London to the most westerly suburbs and found myself being terrified of two things: The rain (my QPod lacked the optional weather gear), and crowded bus stops. Unfortunately a congested Friday night in central London has rather a lot of those, and I was pointed to and laughed at at each and every one of them from Canary Wharf to Ealing.
I pulled a face back, a sort of speechless Gromit expression that said " look, I don't want to be seen in this either. It's hard work in here". And it was. I found the steering heavy at parking speeds, it was tricky to start and get into gear, and it smelt of petrol.
The one good thing about such a long journey was that I got more used to the contraption, and more aware of its virtues. It was great to be able to squeeze past traffic jams, and the fact that nothing moves above 30mph in London anyway left the QPod in a perfectly competitive position. I even started to enjoy myself (a bit), but it was always spoiled by a slightly unstable, vulnerable feeling. I imagine it is in its element off road. I just thank my stars that I wasn't driving around in the even more absurd three wheeler (check it out on www.qpod.co.uk).
If you run a publicity-hungry business or you're an exhibitionist, please buy a QPod now. Forget a liveried Smart/Mini/Ferrari: you'll never get more stares than in a QPod. Otherwise you'd have more fun in Noel's old gunge tank.
Adrian Jewitt 50, Marketing consultant from Ealing, London and his son Thomas, 11
USUAL TRANSPORT: VOLVO V70, FORD FOCUS AND YAMAHA FAZER
Adrian: On every level it failed as a car. It is boneshakingly uncomfortable, too small, very heavy to steer, it has no luggage space, and it's underpowered. The bike is much more practical. But everyone we passed smiled and waved at us, and all the kids on the street wanted to have a go in it. No one smiles at me when I'm driving the Volvo. It made me smile, but I still can't imagine why anyone would buy one. My daughter Laura gave it 10 out of 10.
Thomas: I thought it was great fun, even though it was a bit uncomfortable. One of the best things was being able to squeeze through gaps that cars can't. It rocks.
John Calutas, 36, Broadcasting technician from Perivale, west London
USUAL TRANSPORT: RENAULT ESPACE, PEUGEOT SCOOTER
Start the QPod up and it sounds like a souped-up lawn mower, the steering is surprisingly heavy and even though you have four massive Quad-type tyres, the handling of the QPod didn't inspire me with confidence. Corners should be approached with care. I thought I'd give the QPod some welly on a long stretch of road, but there was so much vibration from the engine and nobbly off-road tyres that it actually distorted my vision! I've been trying to think who would buy one, and I can't think of any advantages compared to a scooter, for instance. Scooters are cheaper, more fun to ride and have a lot more street cred.
CiCi Tremain, 45, Mental health practioner from Hanwell, west London
USUAL CAR: VAUXHALL ASTRA CONVERTIBLE
It's a funky design, like a Quad bike converted to a two-seater convertible - but with nowhere to store the roof, so check the weather. The top speed of 40mph is OK for urban use. I found it cramped - I'm 6ft tall and there was little room my frame. I'd like to see Mr Blobby try to get in it. My partner, at 5ft, found it ideal, however. The suspension is rather hard, you need a cushion. As for the controls they are part car, part Quad bike, but you get the hang of them quickly, althought the automatic gears are fiddly to engage. It sounds like a loud scooter - the neighbours know you're coming. It's a Smart car with considerably less frills.
THE VERDICT: If you would like to take part, e-mail motoring@indepen dent.co.uk or write to: The Verdict, Features Department, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS, giving your address, phone number and details of the car, if any, you drive. For most cars, participants must be over 26 and have a clean licence.
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