A new series of Top Gear will begin next month with a new Reasonably Priced Car after the previous model became too plush
Almost every episode of the show features a celebrity attempting to set the fastest lap of the Top Gear test track in a cheap family car. Since 2010 it has been a Kia Cee’d. The car has been driven on two wheels by Tom Cruise, below, and Cameron Diaz has cursed its “English gears” but even Jeremy Clarkson was forced to admit: “It’s not a bad little car”.
The Cee’d has completed its last lap of the track, though, after Kia launched a replacement model. The Korean firm, which has seen sales soar by 50% since the car first appeared on the show, says the hatchback has moved upmarket and no longer wants it to be seen as a budget choice.
Kia’s departure has left a vacancy for a family car, which manufacturers have been jostling to secure in anticipation of the extra publicity that it will generate, considering the show is watched by 350m people worldwide. The Cee’d appeared on screen each week for several minutes, at the hands of A-list Hollywood celebrities, rock stars, Olympians and politicians, who had been trained by The Stig.
The bookies’ 3/1 favourite is a model from Kia’s sister company, Hyundai. Its i20 hatchback is smaller than other candidates but costs less than £10,000.
Industry rumours suggest that the smart money is on the show’s stars to pick a Dacia, though. William Hill, the bookmaker, is offering odds of 8/1 on the company, which is Renault’s budget brand, to supply the next Reasonably Priced Car.
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Dacia’s Sandero, a five-door hatchback, below, starts at £5,995 but the increased popularity of SUVs means that the show’s producers could also choose the Duster, which costs from £8,995 and is one of presenter James May’s favourite cars.
“We know that Top Gear is looking at a few things,” said a Dacia spokesman who sounded keen to avoid the subject. “But it’s not necessarily us.”
A Hyundai spokeswoman said that she did not think that the company was involved and another leading contender, Proton, said that it was due to replace its range next year, so would be unlikely to supply vehicles to Top Gear.
“We will reveal a new Reasonably Priced Car in the next series,” the BBC confirmed. “But the next series starts at the end of June and it is too soon to comment now.”
There are typically three versions of the car supplied to Top Gear: a manual car and a back-up, in case the first one is crashed, and an automatic for drivers who prefer not to change gear. “The Cee’d never really let them down,” says Steve Kitson, communication director of Kia. “There were one or two drivers who destroyed the clutch, though.
“We have loved being with Top Gear for the past four series. Tom Cruise has driven it and we had a fantastic send-off in the last series when the presenters played a rugby game with the new model at Twickenham. But we now have a new-look car and it is time to pull back because the car doesn’t fit the brief any more.”
Since Harry Enfield took the wheel of a Suzuki Liana in the first episode of the new version of Top Gear in 2002, the Star in the Reasonably Priced Car feature has been a regular slot in the show. The Liana was replaced by a Chevrolet Lacetti in 2006 before the Cee’d took over in 2010. Matt LeBlanc, the former Friends actor, currently holds the record for the fastest lap in the Cee’d with a time of 1min 42.1sec but a new leaderboard is expected to be started for the new car.
Manufacturers who could supply the next Reasonably Priced Car
Odds supplied by William Hill and were correct on May 23
The i20 is reasonably priced, starting at £9,995 for a three-door version, but would be smaller than any of the previous cars.
Bookmakers think there’s a good chance that Top Gear will return to Suzuki, although if producers want a family car, then their only real choice is the SX4 SUV, which starts at £12,595.
The firm’s Gen-2 fits the bill perfectly, with unusual looks, a spacious interior and a price starting at less than £10,000. The trouble is that the car is being discontinued so would only be a short-term choice.
With two cars that fit the bill ‒ the Sandero hatchback at £5,995 and the Duster SUV at £8,995, right, ‒ and a fan in the form of James May, Renault’s budget brand seems like the clear winner. But how often does Top Gear go for the obvious choice?
The company’s new five-door hatchback isn’t just big enough for a family and priced from £12,900, the Rapid could have been named for the segment.
It might be cheap but the Smart ForTwo doesn’t exactly fit the brief of a family car. Even so, the thought of the tiny two-door whizzing through the corners at the hands of a squealing celebrity might tempt the Top Gear producers.
If you have just launched the most powerful and sportiest model in your company’s history, then surely it makes sense to show it off on the country’s best-known test track. The problem is that, even at the luxury end of the market, £235,000 couldn’t be described as “reasonable”.
Published on May 23, 2013Tweet