crossover

Why the mid-sized Vauxhall you need isn’t this one

IF YOU’RE reading this in The Champion – as opposed to having it beamed into your eyes by a laptop or smartphone – then you’re already way ahead of me. There is still a sizable constituency of normal people who like doing things the old-fashioned way, and that includes getting your weekly motoring fix through a proper, printed newspaper.

There are plenty of us who still prefer to ring people up rather than WhatsApping them, bemoan the fact that Tesco is trying to ditch its deli counters and were quite happy with just the four channels on their analogue TVs (I suspect there are still a few poor souls out there still trying to tune into Channel 5, even now).

I know this because at the last count, when it comes to Europe-wide sales that include both Vauxhall and its continental Opel cousin, the Astra still comfortably outsold the Mokka. Which, on the face of it, shouldn’t really make sense.

The Mokka X, to give it its full name, is Vauxhall swiping right at just about every Millennial would-be buyer it finds – it’s a petite crossover with the same sort of cutesy styling that makes the Corsa such a big hit with younger drivers, it’s easy to park and get in and out of, and it has the sort of high driving position and bags of interior space that make its Juke and Captur counterparts such big sellers. The Astra, on the other hand, is the seventh generation of a sensible family hatchback that’s been around since The Jam’s Going Underground was top of the charts. Your dad probably had an Astra. And your granddad too, for that matter.

But having spent a couple of days driving around in both it’s not hard to suss why more of you are still driving around in Astras. It’s a better car.

I know that, yes, technically the bigger and newer Grandland X is the closer relative to the Astra, but it’s also more expensive – whereas the Astra and Mokka I drove both had turbocharged 1.4-litre petrol engines, similar equipment levels and cost a shade under £22,000. The Mokka X is the more 2019-relevant of the two, but the Astra has a bigger boot, a smoother ride, better composure through the corners and is much nicer to drive. It’s also easier to see out of – Vauxhall evidently listened to everyone who moaned about the enormous A-pillars on the outgoing Astra – and, for what’s supposed to be a dowdy old five-door hatch, it’s still rather easy on the eye.

I know that crossovers are meant to be the future but I reckon you ignore the good, old-fashioned Astra at your peril. I’m sure it’ll still be around in another 39 years’ time. As will The Champion, of course…

What one German car mag’s said about the new Volkswagen Tiguan will shock you

tiguanIF ANYONE knows a thing or two about art it’s the French. They gave us impressionist paintings, Les Misérables and Daft Punk.

Extend that to cars and it’s immediately apparent they know a thing or two about great design too. In 1971 someone in a turtleneck sweater stuck the original Range Rover in The Louvre and declared it a piece of exemplary industrial design. The rest of the world immediately agreed. The idea of great car designs being art earned a new currency overnight – although it makes you wonder why they hadn’t already done it with the Citroën DS.

Great car designs make wonderful works of art – you only have to look at an E-type or a Citroën SM to realise why. Yet it’s hard to imagine anyone sticking the latest bit of award-winning automotive design in Paris’ hotspot in quizzical-looking arty types.

The new Volkswagen Tiguan has been hailed – admittedly by the Germans – as a brilliant bit of design. The only thing is I’m struggling to understand why.

According to Volkswagen it ‘radiates power and authority’, but I’m still not sure what excited German mag Auto Zeitung so much that it beat 14 other new cars to be honoured as 2016’s most exciting bit of automotive design. Surely the new Morgan EV3 or the Alfa Romeo Giulia or the Ford GT were a bit more interesting?

Apparently not. What excites Germans is the use of a how the Tigun uses VW’s Modular Transverse Matrix – I know you want to yawn, but bear with me – and manages to give it ‘an unmistaken SUV profile’. In other words, they’re impressed by how the bits you know and love from the Volkswagen Golf can be made to look almost exactly like a Nissan Qashqai or a Ford Kuga.

The Tiguan does look a bit smarter than the old one and I’m sure it’s fantastic at towing a caravan along the M58 while getting a silent fifty to the gallon, but is it really the year’s most interesting bit of motoring design? When there’s a new Honda NSX around the corner? When are there all sorts of interesting developments in fuel cell cars and autonomous driving on the horizon?

I’m not convinced. Maybe I’m not German enough…