Taxi Noir: Big Car, Small Car
I’m by no means qualified to act as a motoring correspondent, so the following “review” of my new car is unlikely to give the regular car reviewer any sleepless nights.
As background: until March 2000 I was a London taxi driver. For many years I’d owned a traditional TX London taxi. This is far removed from a regular car. In comparison with the Aygo there’s a massive difference in size, technology, and fuel consumption. Here are my initial, very unscientific, views.
On picking the car up the first thing I noticed was how sensitive the brakes and steering were. Three months on and I’m still doing emergency stops through being a little heavy on the brake. The engine almost silent when stationary. I kept wondering whether the engine had switched itself off at the lights. Accelerating away it makes a fair bit of noise, but it gets up to speed quickly. I wondered how it would fare on a motorway, as reviews suggest it’s very much a city car and not too clever on a motorway. I use the M1 every work day, and I’ve driven and round trip of 400 miles to York. It’s fine.
The Aygo has lukewarm reviews in the car magazines – typically three stars; but after driving a cab, what do I care about road and wind noise? I thought I might find it cramped. It’s fine. The driver’s compartment in a TX taxi is no better. It’s a bit like the Tardis: it looks small from the outside, but it’s spacious enough for my six-foot frame. It’s only when you look behind you and see how short it is that you remember it’s a tiny car. Cramped in the back? Hell yeah; but neither my wife Mo, or I, are ever going to be in the back so it’s not an issue. The turning circle is nearly as good as the cab’s (London taxis have to have a turning circle of 25 feet).
Compared with the cab it’s like a rocket ship. It comes with a few luxuries that you don’t often get on budget cars: alloy wheels, leather (auto) gearshift and steering wheel (I’m not sure why everyone wants alloy wheels; I think they’re lighter than steel, so they maybe help the car run faster?). There’s a reversing camera – brilliant! Just look at the illuminated computer screen and you use guidelines to reverse – particularly useful at night, and in my dark car park. There’s a warning light for everything; including when your tyre pressure drops. You don’t need to switch the lights off and on as it’s done automatically. The headlights are partially on in the daytime, you can’t switch the daytime running lights off. I find the automatic air conditioning a bit unnecessary. Also the bleeping icon that goes off when you veer off the motorway asleep at the wheel.
So how does a 1.1 litre petrol-engine car compare with a 2.5 diesel? I was prepared for my daily 30-mile commute (each way) to cost me £10. I was delighted to find it costs me no more than £6. I don’t know why people buy bigger cars bearing in mind the extra fuel costs.
Mo likes it, and it’s nice for her not to have to shout at the back of my head!
The media computer is impressive, but much of it is wasted on me. I set up my favourite digital radio stations easily, and connected my mobile to the Bluetooth facility. You just press a button and start talking to the central console. My first call came from a friend after a month. The computer started flashing and I didn’t know what to do. I flapped about as if a wasp had flown in. I let it ring and phoned back on a proper mobile. I think there’s a sat nav but I’m not sure; I haven’t been able to work it out. Maybe that needs to be connected to my mobile? I’ll ask next year when I take it in for a service.
I used to play a lot of music CDs in the cab on my way home from London. I selected a Hawkwind CD and went to insert it in the CD player. There was no CD player! Jesus H Christ! I think I have to use an i-pod or something. Thankfully I’d just discovered Planet Rock, and I’ve been toggling between talk radio on LBC and low-tech rock & roll. I’m delighted with my purchase.