AS JEREMY Clarkson rambles go, today’s article in The Sunday Times Magazine is epic. A full 17 of the 19 paragraphs are devoted to what makes driving joyful, with only the final two getting down to the Hyundai i10 city car — ostensibly the subject of this week’s road test.
Clarkson loves Rome, he informs us, because traffic lights are not used for traffic management; they’re to prove your car is faster than the one next to you. And parking is a joy because no space is too small: “If you can get even a tiny part of your car into it, you can use your bumpers to make it bigger.”
Italy in general is brilliant for cars, The Grand Tour presenter says. His top motoring fantasy is “hurtling down the Amalfi coast in an Alfa Romeo Spider, on my way to a cliff-top restaurant for some bruschetta. The sun would be shining and Claudia Cardinale would be in the passenger seat and she’d be wearing a headscarf.”
Perhaps right now isn’t the best time to travel there, as it’s in the grips of the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak, but Clarkson certainly paints a picture many car — and 1960s Italian cinema — enthusiasts will appreciate.
It’s not just the environment. Italians know that motoring pleasure involves a “revvy twin-cam spirit” and that Fiat is only just bringing its first electric car to market. “But you sense that it’ll be launched with a disgruntled shrug,” Clarkson decides, though he may have changed his mind after watching last week’s exuberant video presentation of the car in question: the all-new, electric-only Fiat 500.
He and Italians are out of step, however. “The rest of the developed world has got it into its head that the car is a tool for taking small children safely and economically to school, and that the environment has got something to do with this. By and large we no longer buy cars because they are pretty or because they make a sound that tickles our perineums. We care only about what connectivity they have and whether they are able to steer themselves for short periods.”
Which is why the Hyundai i10 exists, he says. There’s nothing wrong with it, Clarkson reckons, and if you want to spend from £12,495 on a small, five-door Hyundai, it’s ideal. But it doesn’t offer what James May has described in the past as “the fizz” — it’s one of many cars sold as a “soulless tool”, like a “fridge-freezer with sat nav and collision avoidance technology.”
Somebody find the man an Alfa Spider, quick.