Oooh la la! Big French cars just got interesting again

The current Renault Espace is far more exciting than its MPV rivals on sale here in the UK

IF SOUTHPORT really is the Paris of The North then I’d like to nominate it for an ambitious new automotive project. We should use the resort as a pilot scheme for reintroducing the Big French Car to Britain’s roads.

The Big French Car is a species not so much on life support in this country as completely dead and buried, consigned to a much earlier grave than the rest of Europe because we’re far more interested in what BMW, Audi and Mercedes have to offer. Citroen’s decision to can the C5 a few months ago is a case in point. It’s alive and well on the continent, but last year we Brits bought just 237 of them. Not a lot for what’s meant to be the Gallic answer to Ford’s Mondeo.

Yet if a business trip I’ve just taken to Normandy is anything to go by then we really ought to be slowly but surely reintroducing the endangered breed that is the Big French Car back to Britain. If the new Renault Espace is anything to go by, big wafty motors from the other side of the Channel started getting interesting the moment we bid them adieu.

In the course of a weekend I saw plenty of French families happily tootling around in something that no longer looks like a van with windows and suddenly has a rather rakish quality. Convert the French price into English and you’re looking at a £29k car – yes, that’s three grand more than Volkswagen’s Sharan but worth it something that looks like TGV high speed train rather than a minibus.

It’s the same story elsewhere in Renault’s range; the big new Talisman saloon looks fantastic and our French friends can have a neat estate version of the current Clio, but neither of these are available in the UK. Citroen, meanwhile, has announced a follow-up to its fabulous C6 luxury saloon, which is as likely to see a UK showroom as Boris Johnson is to see a friendly face in Brussels. Peugeot’s a little better, with a French range that roughly mirrors ours, but it’s clear there are plenty of wonderfully endearing cars we Brits should be getting but aren’t.

Which is why I think Southport, with its vaguely Parisian boulevard running right through its centre and al fresco dining areas alongside it, is somewhere vaguely French enough to support the reintroduction of big French cars. We should all be given new Renault Espaces and Citroen C6s so we can show the rest of Britain that cars other than bland crossovers and poverty-spec German saloons are available. The Big French Car deserves a reintroduction here, and with our historical connections to Paris we’re the ideal place to do it.

Just don’t mention depreciation or the whole idea’s ruined…


This DS3 is proof girly cars don’t work

The DS 3 Givenchy Le Make Up is a tie-up with French fashion brand GivenchyTHE perfect car for women should have a pink dashboard, a cosmetics kit and LED lighting that makes it easier to apply. 

Before you fire up your keyboards and prepare your email to The Champion’s editor that’s not me being sexist for the sake of an intro. That’s the genuine specification of a three-door hatchback you’ll be able to order in a couple of week’s time. 

I haven’t been on enough political correctness courses to work out whether or not the DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp is patronising to the opposite sex or just brilliant brand placement. Girly cars with pink upholstery are nothing new (take a bow, Fiat 500), and nor is marketing your upmarket bit of motoring with a fashionable label (the Range Rover Vogue, for all its blokey off-road credentials, was originally named after the fashion magazine). But blending the two is genuinely brave stuff.

The encouraging news is the basic package is genuinely good stuff. I’ve driven several DS3s – admittedly when they were badged as Citroëns rather than a posh French brand in their own right – and all had an enticing blend of consummate handling, plucky engines and energetic, youthful styling. It’s exactly the sort of fun-filled family car I’ll hop into for a cheeky B-road blast.

But – and here’s the rub – I can’t help feel sorry for the bloke whose car breaks down one Monday morning, with no public transport to hand. The only way of getting to the office on time is to borrow the other half’s DS 3 Givenchy Le MakeUp, and all his mates are going to see him driving it. It’s a car named in honour of make up, for heaven’s sake. Our poor friend – who might as well walk to work wearing a short skirt for the same effect – is going to feel like an utter berk driving it.

That’s my problem with gender-specific cars. Women are far brighter human beings than most males are and are perfectly capable of adapting any car to their needs without the need for pink upholstery and in-built cosmetic kits, and don’t need manufacturer help. It also begs the question of where the bloke equivalent is – a DS 3 The Lad Bible with an in-built fridge full of Carlsberg and some Liverpool season tickets is just about as ludicrous, but that won’t happen any time soon.

The DS 3 is a brilliant car – but chucking make up and silly pink trim at it doesn’t improve it one jot.