Andrex Extra Soft Blog Roll

It's all a load of bollocks, quite frankly

>I can’t stop, I’m driving a Toyota.

>Sorry, I can’t stop, I’m driving a Toyota…

As a fan of Italian cars, especially Alfa Romeos, which by and large are great to look at and drive but inevitably break down every other minute, it is comforting to know that the Japanese can screw up occasionally as well. First of all Nissan screwed up by allowing themselves to go nearly bankrupt and then having to be bought out by Renault. Which saw the previous series Primera and Micra being mechanically based on the Renault Laguna and Renault Clio, respectively. Which meant they broke down. A lot. No, more than that. Most of their latest efforts now are based on and designed by Renault. The Japanese efficiency has slumped somewhat into, well, a sort of surrendering at the side of the road. Like the French really.

Now Toyota have been stung, but not for that fact that they’ve been taken over by cheese eating surrender monkeys like Nissan. They’re still Japanese. Now to me the Toyota brand are the motoring equivalent of that person we all hate – you know them, they don’t eat sweets in between meals, vegetarian, drink half a shandy but only at christmas and generally their names are Janet. Or Chris Martin. True, they make technically very good cars and very reliable cars, but aside from a few slip through the net moments such as the Celica and the first and latest MR2 which are brilliant to drive AND to look at.

But the Starlet? Auris? Carina? Camry? Do you actually remember what they look like? Thought not. You’d fallen asleep by the time you finished looking at the first photograph? Wake up! They’re cars, yes in the sense they get you from A to B. But they are more white goods than cars, there is no depth, they have no soul. There is nothing to make you look back when you’ve parked it and make you think, “That looks great” or nothing to excite you when you’re driving. The steering is brilliantly engineered and the gear selection swift and crisp, but only in the same way that sawing your leg off successfully removes it.

I guess what I look for in a car is something to entertain, or at least look something special. So why I own what I do is quite bizarre My own personal car is a Fiat Stilo, which in five door form is a turd. No two ways about it, it looks like a Metrocab and drives like a Tesco trolley. But the three door, which is what I have in poverty spec Active guise, is a totally different machine. Technically the Stilo is far from perfect. I mean, the upper glove box lid has hinges made from plastic so thin you could read through it. The fuel filler flap has snapped off twice due to having an overly fussy and poor design – it has a multi-link sort of hinge, but is made from what can only be described as twiglets. You need to remove the entire front end of the car to renew a headlight bulb. The electric power steering has as much communication skills as Gordon Brown. Its cornering ability is just a tad (read very) woolly. On the flipside, the gearchange is excellent, the brakes are spot on and the engine is an absolute gem. Not very powerful, it pumps out just under 100bhp, but fun to push with a good note and it feels more willing than its mere 1388cc would suggest. It’s far from perfect but I still enjoy driving it.

However our other car, a Vauxhall Corsa is a good little car, but I despise it. It’s a typical “Does what it says on the tin” car. It’s a white goods car, there’s nothing to make you feel involved. It’s the motoring equivalent of a washing machine. In fact I shall call it the Vauxhall Creda from now on.

Anyway, yet again I find myself strolling a fair old distance from the point, which is the Japanese taking one in the chest. All these Aurisesesesseses and Aygos etc have now been made slightly interesting by the fact that Toyota have stopped making their cars properly. And the Prius. Oh god, yes the Prius, the darling of the guilt ridden celebrity set (that’s up for it’s own rant in my blog somewhere else in another time and place). Absolute music to my ears that this goody-two-shoes of a car has now got something wrong with it. This has been recalled because it doesn’t stop. Which, sometimes you need to do unless your name is Richard Hammond where you use the car in front or the nearest crash barrier. Or your own head. Owners have been told to look out for “inconsistent” feeling brakes whilst Toyota were looking for a fix. I’d rather be looking out for that cottage with the thatched roof on the corner of the lane that I’m about to crash into because the brakes don’t work. Certain other Toyotas have been recalled because their accelerators get stuck down and carry on accelerating. Now imagine you’re one of those unlucky people who have one of these Toyotas that won’t stop accelerating, but by a sheer stroke of luck, you put your foot on the brakes only to find the braking feel is “inconsistent”. Oh dear. This can only end in the phrase “Oh cock!”

Now you could understand all this if it were to be on a British car. The Austin Maestro always had an “inconsistent” brake feel (read fucking useless). The accelerator pedal stuck but only because they forgot to attach it properly. Then again, it would never start so you never had to worry about these minor issues. Both Citroen AX’s I had came as standard with an “inconsistent” brakes, however the accelerator problem was reversed as neither of them would actually accelerate. Again, there was a reason for that, and it certainly wasn’t a safety recall. No, the reason was their inbuilt shiteness. If shiteness is a word. Do you care? Not an iota.

However, Japanese efficiency and a knack for common sense and excellent engineering and had already sorted these problems out, in a scandal which the Daily Mail will no doubt name “Toyotagate”. All new vehicles are modified and a fix for exisiting vehicles on the road has been put in place. But yet again, the media have their say and it’s no telling as to what publications such as the Daily Mail will do for Toyota’s reputation. Just ask Lancia. First being bought by Fiat in the early 70s, Fiat did a deal with the Russians to set up a factory in exchange for steel. The steel quality was crap and most manufacturers idea of rust proofing was not to use it. The late 70’s saw a problem with corroding front subframes on Lancia Betas where the engine could fall out onto the road. In a time where vehicle safety recalls where rare, Lancia did the decent thing and offered an excellent part exchange deal or purchased the cars quietly back from exisiting owners. These cars were then crushed. The Daily Express ran a long and over-exposing “Lanciagate” story and Lancia never recovered. Sales plummeted, residual values tumbled, not even the Delta Integrale could save Lancia from the UK market and in 1994 they withdrew.

No matter how Toyota’s reptutation becomes tarnished or how much it improves with what they are doing to overcome the problems, I will never own a Toyota. I don’t aspire to own one, there is nothing to make me want to have my name on the registration document. But I’ll have a Lancia Beta any day of the week…


May 6, 2010 - Posted by | Motoring

1 Comment »

  1. >Thoroughly agreed. Cars, like people, are defined by their flaws. A flawless person is the most irritating bastard in the world, flaws equal character.Hence why, if I ever have the money, I will buy myself an American muscle car. Well made? No. Efficient? No. But packed with character, fun and bulging biceps in place of snazzy onboard computers. Perfect.

    Comment by Vampiric Chicken | May 9, 2010 | Reply

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