A RUNNING gag on The Grand Tour, and Top Gear before it under the stewardship of Jeremy Clarkson, was the absence of many reviews of affordable family cars. Fake letters, ostensibly from readers sick and tired of segments about supercars smoking their tyres around tracks, were read out on air before a film was played that did focus on a hatchback of some kind.
But viewers weren’t given information about seat comfort or boot litreage or fuel consumption versus rivals, of course. Instead the cars were used in ridiculous ways, such as being driven up a mountain, used to pull a container ship or deployed by moustachioed foreign police to chase bank robbers driving a De Tomaso Pantera. Or all three in a single episode.
The Sunday Times receives real versions of these letters from time to time, and clearly Clarkson has had enough as he’s devoted much of his double page spread in today’s edition to the issue. He explains that the good Sunday Times subscribers would much rather read about a luxury supercar while tucking into their morning croissant and espresso than a compact crossover such as the Mazda CX-30, which is officially the subject of today’s road test page.
The CX-30, he explains, is a £22,895-plus five-seat, front-wheel-drive, “school-run family wagon” that sits between the CX-3 and CX-5, though because the name CX-4 is used by Mazda for another type of car in another country, it gets a name that breaks the family lineage. That’s one of the more exciting details about it, he suggests.
“If you look up the word ‘sensible’ in a picture dictionary, this is what you’ll see,” writes Clarkson. “But how many people, I wonder, are considering this morning buying such a thing? A hundred? And how many are reading this bit of this paper? Ten?”
By this logic, reviewing an affordable car in The Sunday Times — or on The Grand Tour / Top Gear “doesn’t stack up”. Clarkson knows this from experience because when asked to review a Ford Orion on old (old) Top Gear, he decided to borrow a Lamborghini Diablo instead, and sent it round a circuit with interesting (expensive) camera work, mixed to the music of Bad Company. The resulting growth in audience numbers showed that viewers wanted “noise and power and pounding rock’n’roll. Not slacks and beards and dreary reports about how spark plugs work.”
And yet, having been asked to write something about the Mazda, Clarkson does offer some thoughts in today’s paper. “It’s not what you’d call spacious,” he notes, and the optional electronic tailgate “opens and closes in a time frame only a glacier would call speedy.”
He also disliked having to use a manual gearbox in a car such as this, and complains that the ride is too hard: “They fitted the CX-30 with what feels like no suspension at all. You know that bit in The Avengers when the Hulk bashes Tom Hiddleston from side to side on the floor? Well, you get an idea of how that might feel if you drive a CX-30 at normal speeds on a country road.”
Finally, Clarkson reckons the 2-litre engine is “fine” but not very exciting, and recommends that the 10 readers who were interested in buying the car at the start of the review ought to go for something else instead.
“And the thousands of readers who were not thinking of buying it? God knows, we lost them 25 paragraphs ago,” he concludes.
And that’s why Clarkson will be trying to bring a review of the 542bhp, £158,000-plus Aston Martin DBX to his Sunday Times column as soon as possible, and why readers aren’t treated to the rear legroom measurements of MGs each week.
To read his column in full, pick up today’s Sunday Times Magazine or click here to visit the page on The Sunday Times website.