Old cars bad, news cars good. I think.

IN my line of work I get to drive a lot of new cars. Sort of comes as part of running a car mag I suppose.

Last month, for example, we tested five city cars that could be had for the measly sum of just £99 per month (after a chunky deposit).

There was a Ford-shaped one that’s really a Fiat, and a Fiat-shaped one that’s really a Ford. There was a German one that appeared to have had all the options boxes on the order form unchecked, and a Korean one which appeared to have had them all ticked (presumably to throw you off the scent it was Korean).

Oh, and there was one other that was about as interesting as a dishwasher. I know that because I can’t even remember what it was, apart from the fact it was white.

So what am I getting at? Well, the thing is all of them were actually quite good. They were all comfortable, they all cruised happily at 70mph, and they all started when you turned the key. Nothing remarkable there, but therein lies the problem – there was nothing remarkable about any of them.

Not one had the merest whiff of a personality. Some tried. In fact some tried very hard – a bit like that pretty girl’s mate with the ‘bubbly’ personality tries. But none of them pulled it off.

Yes, they may be available for £99 per month, but, you know what? I’d much rather take the deposit you’d have to find to get the finance for any one of those dull boxes and invest it in something with a bit of soul.

Like my XR2. Ha! There it is. I know you were wondering when I’d get round to that, but it’s true. Today E721 WTU was used as transportation to Heathrow. And it was during that pre-dawn blast that I realised that any car can get you from A to B. But not all of them can do it with character.

I like the fact – perversely perhaps – that every time I hear a rattle of squeak in the XR2 I’m convinced it’s going to end up in a cloud of white smoke on the hard shoulder.

I like the fact that the incessant drone of the dodgy wheel bearing makes me think twice about overtaking in case it results in my untimely demise as a pepper pot alloy rolls past my bloodied and crumpled corpse.

I even like the fact I have to listen to radio stations that I didn’t even know existed because of the lack of FM reception. Talk Sport anyone? I don’t even like sport, but yet it is still strangely enjoyable at the wheel of the Fiesta. God knows what I’ll do come digital switchover day…

The thing is, compared to new cars, old cars are usually pretty crap. I’ll happily admit mine is. I’m currently writing this on a plane worrying about whether it’ll start when I get back to it tomorrow.

But despite the worry, there’s something about the Russian Roulette of Serious Mechanical Failure every time you take it out that makes journeys a little less predictable, and in so being, thoroughly more enjoyable.

I really should start using the XR2 a little more, and the test cars a little less. Perhaps tomorrow.

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