Let’s face it, there are certain types of car that divide opinion. One man’s off road warrior is another man’s polar bear destroyer. Indeed, the 4×4 is probably the mode of transport that polarises opinion the most. No pun intended.
The Volkswagen Beetle is another prime example – loved and loathed in equal measure. The Fiat Multipla, the Citroën 2CV, the Porsche Boxster, MPVs, the Morris Marina, the Saab 900, Lotuses, the Ford Capri, Fernando Alonso, etc, etc.
I’m pretty tolerant of most things, to be honest. As documented on PetrolBlog before, I’m just as likely to get excited about seeing a mint Matra Rancho as I am a new Land Rover Evoque, even if it is being driven by a former Spice Girl.
But there’s one breed of car that I simply can’t tolerate. One car that has the ability to ruin a good day. One car that can make even the sunniest of days turn to mild drizzle. A car so hideous, I’ve seen small children quite literally stop in their tracks, turn a whiter shade of pale before running back to mummy in horror.
The car in question is the Shatchback, which roughly translates as a hatchback with a saloon boot. Even now, as a past history of Shatchbacks runs before my very eyes, my stomach is churning and my heart thumping a little faster. Terrifying.
OK, I appreciate that the UK isn’t exactly the target market for the Shatchback – as a nation we are far happier in our hatches, estates, SUVs and sports cars. Yes, I know there are countries in the world that have an unnatural love for booted hatchbacks and to be honest, they’re welcome to them.
But the fact is, we’re being subjected to them, even if the proportion of the nation that actually wants one is so small you need a magnifying glass to find them.
It should be pointed out that I’m not talking about all saloon cars; if a car started life on the designer’s sketchbook, then fair play. Indeed, some of my favourite cars are saloons, specifically from the stables of Alfa Romeo, Audi, Ford, Saab and Volkswagen. No, I’m talking about Shatchbacks, which have about as much flair and panache as a breeze block. Only less useful.
I have a lot of sympathy for the poor fellows in the design studios of the automotive world superpowers. You can imagine their feeling of joy and pride when they bounded into the board meeting to present their cutting-edge design for the new hatchback.
Rationale statement lovingly prepared and Keynote presentation rehearsed well into the early hours. The relief as it goes well and the design concept is approved. But then, just as the design team turn and head for the door, the quiet man in the corner clears his throat and mutters the words the designer didn’t want to hear; “And what about the saloon version?“. At that moment, the designer drops his crayons and mochaccino and lets out a small cry of despair. Career over.
Need reminding of the hideous of the Shatchback? Here a few that are guaranteed to keep you awake tonight.
Some 140,000 of these monsters were produced in Spain between 1974 and 1984. That’s 140,000 cars that managed to take the mildly pretty Renault 5 and turn it into something quite hideous. Fortunately, due to the success of the Renault 12, the UK was largely spared the horror of the 7, so that’s at least one thing to thank the 12 for.
Amazingly, I found a Renault 7 for sale – see the ad here. Warning, the images are not necessarily safe for work.
According to a Home Office report in 2006, the Vauxhall Belmont is the car with the highest risk of theft. In 2005 for example, 436 of the 5,729 Belmonts still on the road were stolen. The general consensus is that this is down to the poor security of the vehicle.
But I have another theory; it was actually an inside job. So appalled and ashamed are the bosses at Vauxhall that they actually hunt down Belmonts with the aim of bringing them back to HQ and therefore off the streets. Out of sight, out of mind.
How do you solve a problem like a cutting-edge hatchback design that provokes thought and opinion? Simple – you add a box to the rear end. Et Voila: no more individuality; no more shaking of one’s arse.
My dissatisfaction with the current line up of Peugeots is well known. I’m sure the company got to the point in the 1990s where they sat back, took a look at the 205 GTi, 106 GTi/Rallye and 306 GTi/Rallye and convinced themselves that their job was done. Time to sit back on their laurels.
Well no, actually your job isn’t done – the lion isn’t going from strength to strength. In fact, if the 306 saloon is anything to go by, there’s a lot more work to be done.