Friday, 16 January 2015

Peugeot 308

The bland and banal mid-size family car

When was the last time there was any genuinely revolutionary cars in the small family car section?

I can count them on one hand.

The original VW Golf. 

The Golf GTi.

The original Ford Focus.

The Nissan Qashqai (maybe, in a boring, grey suited kind of way)

And... err... I think that's it. (You could argue that the original Prius fits there as well, but since that's more to do with the hybrid drivetrain, I'll leave it there)

Otherwise it has just been gradual evolution of a fairly basic concept. No real ground breaking tech appears in the hatchback range, no groundbreaking design. I suppose the same can be said of ANY class of car, there is rarely an inspired design that doesn't heavily borrow from another segment. 

Alas, the Peugeot 308 is no exception. 

Uninspiring design, the Peugeot takes blandness to a new level. It's almost as if somebody has asked for the least offensive and/or inspirational design to be drawn up, and the deswigners have done a superb job. Of putting "Average Hatchback" into production. 

There is not a single design detail that would tell you that this is a Peugeot. The only giveaway is the badge at the back, and that is a shame, the way Peugeot has been going recently. The RCZ is what the Audi TT SHOULD have progressed into, but sadly the inspired design there fails to translate across the range. What we have is a series of pensioner-friendly, inoffensive cars which offer little to enrage but equally little to excite. 

In the late 90s/early noughties, Peugeot offered some sporty-looking cars which actually were desirable (to some, anyway). However over the last 10 years or so, they have descended into a position where they completely fail to offer anything inspirational. 

But I guess this is something that you can do when you have multiple brands in the stable - Citroen offer better (or at least more interesting) design, but again, they are hardly going to set the world on fire with their bland cars in wolves' clothing. Or at least German shepherds' clothing. OK, West Highland Terriers' clothing.

And that is exactly why Peugeot have cornered the market in cars for people who crave a lack of excitement. People who are terrified by the wind, who call the police when they hear a squirrel in the garden. They want safety, they want a cushion, they don't feel comfortable travelling at more than 12 miles per hour. On the motorway. 

Peugeot have this market nailed. So, if this matches your description, then I would imagine that this is the perfect car for you. 

Otherwise, it's the most boring thing you could come across
Any idea this is a Peugeot? Or any brand?


Thursday, 15 January 2015

Lexus NX

Lexus NX - a new direction?

Woah! Been a long time since I last posted. Yeah, life is busy, for everyone, but now I have a bit more time to indulge in my secret hobby of looking at cars. OK, not so secret. 

A few years ago, I worked in a place where some of the staff were amazed at my ability to identify a car from being able to see only the taillights. As it happens, it's not that uncommon an ability (er.. I think..) but I could, within a few seconds, tell what car the person arriving was driving. 

We also had a little game where we would try to guess what that person did for a living, and in all honesty, the car would be as much of a give-away as any part of the person. 

Volvo estate, donkey jacket with patches on the elbows? Geography teacher.

Audi A5, ridiculously flashy suit? Estate agent.

BMW M5, suit with ridiculous shoulder profile? Middle manager.

Lexus, grey hair? Retired. In 1996.

You see, Lexus is a fairly unusual market in Europe. Designed for the American wealthy who are used to half-finished roads and long drives, they are like a little sanctuary where you have total silence, keeping the feeling of being surrounded by red-necks and drug dealers well and truly outside. When Toyota founded Lexus, they targeted the Mercedes market, which by and large consists of elderly, wealthy people. 

So they said, "What do old people like?". And so they went to look at where old people hang out, and, in the mistaken belief that it was typical of what older people like, went to a nursing home. 

They like quiet. They like comfort. They like to feel isolated from the outside world. They like feeling cocooned in a cotton blanket. And so Lexus was born. 

Of course this is total garbage. 

However, in the US, it sold well and overtook Mercedes as the number 1 luxury brand. 

In Europe, the people with the money were the middle aged. As a result, the luxury cars they bought were steroid-fuelled BMWs and, lately, Audis. Luxury is different in America and Europe - European luxury is handling that means you can throw the car round the corner without worrying about it before stepping on the accelerator, letting the back end slip out and getting the kick of acceleration. In America, there aren't corners like we have in Europe. At least, not as many, and as such luxury is how you deal with the fact that the roads were built by people with ADHD. "Got the concrete down Hank? That's cool, let's move onto... Oh look, McDonald's. Let's go and then go see a movie."

So Lexus luxury has always been different to the Germans. Kind of like the luxury you get with Rolls Royce, but without the finishing touches or power. 

Sportier styling

The new Lexus NX is oddly reminiscent of the Mazda CX-5. That's not such a bad thing, it's reasonably stylish. It's got a sportier look, and if what I've been told is correct, it has been selling much faster than can be produced. 

Bizarrely, they have used a gentleman called "William" to boost sales, and he appears to be a "wrapper" or some such nonsense. But I'm told that this will make it cool with the in-crowd, if it was indeed still 2004. 

Size-wise, it's about the same size as the old RX400, however the boot suffers from the slope of the roof, so usable space is actually quite limited. 

The front grille is aggressive looking (which I like) but performance is relatively sluggish. So while Lexus are pursuing a sportier look, it's not matched by performance, but I guess that's 2015, and fuel-efficient is almost as cool as "fast" was a few years ago - have a look at those who enjoy cars and speed - overwhelmingly, they are getting older. Speed is not a young man's pursuit anymore. 

So perhaps looking sporty is the new sporty?

I don't know. 

Style is good, but I bet you won't see that many on the road. Purchasers will be those who need an SUV but don't want to feel like they've lost their youth. Kind of like a mid-life crisis, but while the kids are still at home. 

Anyway, here are some pics to look at:

Lexus NX rear view shot

Lexus NX from the front