Audi A4

Why Honda has failed to make the Civic a proper four-door saloon

This new Honda Civic is just about the only small saloon you can buy new in the UK
ARE YOU the sort of tortured soul who gets all misty-eyed over the Ford Orion? Or that discerning driver who wishes that Vauxhall could bring the Belmont back?

Don’t worry, it’s not a trick question. I know that there really are people out there who thought both of these Eighties offerings were thoroughly sensible – if utterly style-free – small saloons that weren’t to be sniffed at. It’s only in the following decade, when the fat-bottomed brethren of the Escort and Astra became joyrider favourites and popped up regularly on Police, Camera, Action that they finally lost their appeal as unpretentious shopping chariots and slipped firmly into banger-dom.

But if you’re the sort of person who looks back fondly on the Triumph Acclaim and is utterly baffled by today’s fashion-conscious off-roaders when all that people should really want is a cheap, reliable saloon, then you’d be forgiven for wondering what happened to the Orion’s ilk. Ford hasn’t sold a Focus saloon for nearly a decade and Vauxhall gave up with booted Astras a long time ago. If you want a new car with a proper boot rather than one of these newfangled hatchbacks then you have to go up a size to the Audi A4s and Jaguar XEs of this world.

Unless, of course, you go knocking at Honda’s door in about two months’ time. Despite the best efforts of some Blade Runner-esque styling and a mad Type-R hot hatch version the Civic is still proving a hit with the sort of sensible Brits who just want a normal, reliable car. So introducing a four-door saloon version is a stroke of genius.

Unlike its hatchback cousin this new Civic isn’t being built at Swindon – it’s actually being bolted together at Honda’s Turkish factory – but otherwise it’s business as usual, with a 1.0-litre petrol or a 1.6-litre turbodiesel doing all the hard work beneath the bonnet. It’ll have the same boringly solid interior materials too, but because the new arrival’s longer and wider than the hatchback it’ll be even roomier on the inside. There’s no word on pricing yet, but if it’s anything like the five-door model you should be able to slip into one for under £20,000.

It’s just a shame that Honda’s fallen at the final hurdle. In order to be a proper small saloon the new Civic needed to look exactly like the hatchback with a really awkward boot grafted onto its rump, and only be available in beige, white, or grey. Instead they’ve made it given it a lovely, coupe-esque profile, set off by metallic colours and alloy wheels that set the shape off without shouting too loudly. Whisper it quietly, but I think it might actually look better than the hatchback it’s based on.

That, Honda, just won’t do. Back to the drawing board, chaps!

Advertisements

Cars might fly – if they weren’t so expensive

PAL-V has launched its Liberty as the first production-ready flying car

KEEN students of irony will surely remember the past week as a pivotal week in Europe’s transport. In the same week that Chris Grayling announces that it won’t be too tricky to police Britain’s borders post-Brexit some Dutch blokes decide to launch a production-ready flying car.

But I wouldn’t get too worried about the prospect of unchecked immigrants zipping straight over the customs booths at Dover while border officials look on helplessly from the ground, perhaps wondering whether some sort of giant net needs to be built from the white cliffs upwards. If you’ve genuinely trekked halfway across Europe in search of a better life in Blighty you almost certainly aren’t going to spend Lamborghini Aventador money on the new PAL-V Liberty to get there.

That’s what this new three-wheeler, which has been claimed as a world first at this year’s Geneva Motor Show because its makers are taking orders in readiness for a 2019 launch, are asking.

For your £290,000 you get a mid-engined two-seater which uses not one, but two engines to rustle up 400bhp. The top speed’s 100mph in the air and slightly more on the ground, and once you take off it’ll be able to cruise for about four hours and roughly 300 miles before you need to fill it up again. And it runs on good old fashioned petrol, since you’re asking.

It is the closest stab anyone’s made so far at making a flying car that works, largely because its makers have realised that trying to mate an aeroplane or helicopter with a car always ends up being crushingly expensive to buy and run. So they’ve based it on an autogyro instead – a petite flying wonder with wings that fold away and tiny, lightweight petrol engines. Sean Connery managed to fight off an entire squadron of helicopters with one in You Only Live Twice, so they can’t be that bad!

But until someone invents a flying car that doesn’t require a Lamborghini price tag and 35 hours of flight training I don’t think they’re going to take off (sorry). Only when it offers Ford Focus-rivalling levels of practicality, an Audi A4-sized price tag and the intuitive driveability of either will we all be hopping into PAL-Vs and soaring through the skies to work. We’ve reached an age where we can wirelessly download Bruno Mars’ entire back catalogue onto a mobile phone in a matter of minutes, but a vision of commuting imagined in The Jetsons still seems hopelessly distant.

If you are serious about using the heavens over the M57 as your route to work I’d suggest a secondhand helicopter instead – the good ones start at about £50,000, which is a big saving over a PAL-V.

For everyone else it’ll have to a Golf, Astra or Focus. Sorry, traffic jams are here to stay…