More often than not, when you can only afford one car it’s a fight between your heart and your head; a choice between the car you really want and something more sensible that ticks the most everyday boxes for you.
This is a painful choice. Last year I had to sell my beloved Honda S2000 – the car I adored and wanted to keep – in order to buy a nice, practical, leather- and gadgets-filled Toyota Avensis Estate. It was the car I needed in order to lug all my photography gear around. Plus, it’s long enough to get a full-size stepladder in without having to run it diagonally.
I digress: the point is that I had to compromise. But having to give up what you really want might not be such a problem in a year or two. Car makers are finally getting around to making cars lighter or otherwise better equipped for everyday fun. Lightweight cars are often the most fun, even if they’re not really meant to be, but that’s not the only way to add smiles per gallon.
Anyone who’s driven an old Ford Fiesta or Peugeot 106 knows that they’re a really good laugh along the right road, and it’s definitely not because of an excess of power. These small, everyday hatchbacks were just fundamentally good to drive, making the most of tiny engines to provide big fun.
So what if the car you had to choose because it was sensible and affordable… was also a barrel of giggles on your everyday drive? Such a thing has always been a bit of a myth, with a few notable exceptions, and until very recently cars have still been getting heavier. That’s turning on its head, though, and this is going to be great news for those of us who can only afford one motor.
Take the Suzuki Swift, which will be comfortably lighter then 900kg. That’s absolutely insane; way lighter, even, than almost any city car. Suzuki spends more time than most actually testing its mules on British roads, too, so its cars usually end up handling pretty well. We’re expecting good things from this year’s Swift. Even with a low-power engine it could be a brilliant, flickable and peppy way to get from A to B.
Then there’s the new Ibiza, which the other Matt drove recently in between chucking a Golf TCR around a cracking circuit near Barcelona and then doing something similar in another part of Spain with the new 911 GT3 (bastard, etc). It’s shorter than before, with a 60mm longer wheelbase pushing the rims right out to the corners, and although it’s significantly wider, it weighs almost the same as before. There’s no doubting that the new car is going to out-do the old one for everyday fun.
Also consider the 2018 Ford Focus, whose engineering team have been given the green light to bring back the fun factor in a big way after the third generation model sacrificed too much of its handling panache for driver-friendliness. It’s set to use more high-tensile steels for a weight cut and a lower centre of gravity. Who says you can’t have a laugh while nipping to the shops?
Cars like these will make it easy to choose the model your head knows you need, because the car your heart wants is already hiding beneath its panels. Crack open a celebratory beer, because a new age of exciting, affordable everyday cars is incoming.