Darren Leslie has been thinking about our ever increasing desire to add options and accessories to even the most basic of cars. Sounds like he yearns for a return to the good old days of motoring.
Here are Darren’s thoughts…
Having recently read Dave Bicker’s thoughts on 2CVs on this very blog, it made me think about what we expect from our cars, and indeed, what we need. The Citroën 2CV is probably as basic as you can get, but I agree with others, being in an accident with one isn’t going to be pretty.
So the question is, can you get a basic car in which you would feel safe in?
I’ve just downloaded a copy of the brochure for the Ford Ka, a modern car designed as a cheap city runabout. I think this is a reasonable place to look.
It seems as though the ‘Studio’ spec is the basic version and its features include a 6-speaker stereo with CD, MP3 and Aux jack, power steering and multiple airbags. This is pretty standard fare, although why power steering is needed in a car with skinny tyres is anyone’s guess. You also get as standard a headlight courtesy delay, which keeps your headlights on for a few seconds after leaving the car. I personally feel it’s a bit pointless. It’s fairly low level spec in today’s world, but would anyone tick the option box?
The next spec up adds air conditioning, electric windows, remote central locking and power mirrors. At a guess, this is probably the level of spec most buyers would consider. But just how far can you go?
The Titanium model add such luxuries as the Advanced Music Pack (with subwoofer, amplifier and ‘premium’ speakers) and climate control. There’s the usual array of wheel choices (ranging from 14” steels to 16” alloys), paint (most of which cost extra), leather seats (which can be heated), built-in iPod connection, Bluetooth and the most amusing of all, an ability to read text messages from the car’s information display. Do we really need any of this stuff? Nope.
You may have read about our Nissan Primera SVE which was the top spec of the range. Sat nav, premium sound system, four electric windows etc. The most useful bit was the reversing camera, but only because the rear window was so small.
On most occasions I would put on Radio 2 and head off. The electric rear windows didn’t move in the time we had it and if I went anywhere I wasn’t familiar with, I looked it up beforehand and took a map. The climate control was adjusted in very rarely and if it was, it was only by a couple of degrees up or down.
In short, we didn’t use all the gadgets that were available to us.
We now have a Volkswagen Sharan SL with pretty much no gadgets at all. It’s made no difference to the way we feel about the car and we actually quite enjoy having something where so little could go wrong.
I think I’ve made my point, but please allow me another example of some of the pointless gadgets. I recently had the pleasure of having a brand new Vauxhall Zafira for a day during our seven days of summer back in May. The cabin was rather hot and so the climate control was put on maximum cold and full power. Half an hour later, we were still hot. So we opened the windows and felt cooler almost immediately. Now, this probably has more to do with a rubbish air con system than anything else, but it does point to the fact that just because it has something, doesn’t mean it’s any good.
I also remember when I was a young lad that cars of the day didn’t have the likes of air con, electric windows, parking sensors or sat nav and I don’t recall being unduly concerned about it. Maybe the fact that you can’t miss what doesn’t exist plays a part in this.
So back to the question in hand. Can you buy a base spec car and perhaps more importantly, would you actually buy one? The aforementioned Ka would appear to be rather basic, as is the new Skoda Citigo, which has a similar level of equipment. Then there’s the Kia Picanto, which offers a greater level of kit, presumably to attract new audiences.
A quick Google search shows that a spec list that includes ABS, PAS and a reasonable radio/CD/MP3 player is about as basic as you can get in the UK.
Would we buy one new? Well if you can live without many of the niceties provided on today’s cars, then yes. With EuroNCAP meaning all new cars must meet certain safety standards, you’ll not feel as though you’re in a 2CV. You may have problems come resale time, but you shouldn’t buy cars for the next user anyway.
K.I.T.T image courtesy of Wikipedia.