A weekly guide to all that’s rotten about car ownership, plus some good bits
That black vehicle that hangs around in groups, does U-turns suddenly in front of you, that is given special fast lanes to drive in, driven usually by a man who can’t be bothered to get out and help you load your luggage, that’s called a taxi.
There’s a new one on the block, the TX Range-Extender. Bit of a mouthful for a name but it’s electric. The TX is not an all-electric vehicle because it features eCity technology – a battery electric powertrain with a small back-up petrol generator. Still, you won’t get choked by its diesel fumes when sitting behind it in traffic. It holds six people and is almost silent. It costs €59,950.
The Chinese, ever ready to sell goods to western tourists, is stealing a march on British companies. The Geely-owned taxi maker, is using a ride-and-drive exercise at the British embassy in Berlin, Germany, as a launch pad, the idea to announce an agreement with a north German taxi operator. The intention is to spread the silent word across the country and improve urban air quality and CO2 emissions. They make the taxis in the UK having invested £325 million pounds in a new Coventry factory. (When will Scotland get a car company?)
You won’t see many, there’s only 25 in existence, soon to multiply like rabbits. Most taxis look identical except the large type with a side sliding door. The TX has no roof taxi light, but probably will when sold in the United Kingdom.
The left-hand drive German taxis, are offered in a variety of colours as well as the traditional German taxi beige, delivered and serviced through the dealer network of Volvo. It may come as a surprise to readers to learn that great Swedish car maker is owned by the Chinese. Then again, the Chinese probably made the iPad or iPhone you’re using to read this article.
Norway, a country that could have been matched in democracy and wealth by Scotland had we declined to let England steal our oil, has a few running around, and there’s “significant interest” from taxi operators in France and the Netherlands.
When will we see leccy taxis here? Ask the TX company that question and you get the expected answer: the TX boss, Carl-Peter Foster, expresses “deep concern” over any threat Brexit might pose to the efficient functioning of the UK export motor industry. “Our business lives off a series of very tight collaborations,” he said. “Any threat to tariff-free trade or the efficient running of the industry is grounds for the deepest concern.”
‘Deep Concern’ sounds a little like a phrase uttered by the late Professor Stanley Unwin, but Foster isn’t joking. Brexit is screwing up everything. Life in the electric lane is so precarious they launched it in Germany first.
The taxi in the photograph (above) is in London made by LEVC – London Electric Vehicle Company – in Coventry. The driver owner is called Reginald who was born in Pakistan.
GROUSEY’S FOOTWELL FINDS
World’s cheapest car
Indian conglomerate Tata has ended production of its Nano city car, which has long held the title of the world’s cheapest car. The Indian manufacturer experienced fast-falling demand for the Nano, with just one being sold last month – a 274 unit decrease on June 2017. Despite costing from as little as £1700, sales of the Nano, which uses a 625cc, twin-cylinder engine developing 35bhp, watched car sales rocket in India … except the Nano. Status, it seemed, is what car buyers want everywhere and the humble Nano was seen as too back-to-basics and down-market.
World’s most expensive micro car
Visiting a car design studio in Pasadena, Los Angeles, I spotted a student with a sketch of a mini-Bentley the size of a Fiat 500. He explained owning a small Bentley allowed its wealthy owners to be seen being environmentally conscious. They used the small car for city driving, the normal size one for long distance driving. I loved the idea. To everybody’s surprise Aston Martin did exactly that by taking Toyota’s smallest vehicle, the micro iQ, calling it the Cygnet, and beefing up its design to look like an Aston Martin. The motoring press, every-ready to decry a good idea, ridiculed it not only because it kept its 1.3 litre engine, but also because it cost over £24,000 for what was essentially a wee Toyota. Aston Martin sold all they intended to make as a way to to reduce their overall emissions output. A second-hand one costs a mint.
Now their Q Department (named after the esteemed James Bond character) that tinkers with models has gone wild and produced a one-off Cygnet that uses the 430bhp V8 engine and running gear from the previous-generation Aston Vantage S. As you’d expect, it shifts like a bat out of hell. Acceleration is 0-62mph in 4.2 seconds, quicker than the discontinued sports car that donated its engine. Top speed is 170mph, which is 64mph quicker than the standard, 1.3-litre-engined Cygnet could manage. What a pity Q Department didn’t experiment with Tesla batteries and market the vehicle.
Useless VW Polo engines
If you drive a Volkswagen Polo maybe wise to get your dealer to check its engine. A few too many owners are finding themselves stranded on the hard shoulder with a wrecked petrol TSI engine and a large bill after a cambelt, chain or tensioner pulley fail.
The TSI (turbocharged straight injection) engines are also fitted in Skoda, Audi and Seat models and have sold in large numbers, but some have been problematic for owners – even after significant changes in design. Tests show failing pulleys are a known problem with the 1.2 TSI engine. VW has recalled similar cars in Australia. Fed up with VW disasters draining profits, some UK dealers are changing the pulleys to prevent similar engine failures. The Consumer Rights Act gives owners recourse against the supplying dealer up to six years after purchase, but car dealers will often claim their liability ends with the warranty. The fault is another major headache for VW to grapple with on top of its emissions scandal, and monkeys used in exhaust tests.