Channelling my inner Clarkson
In what passed for thorough research and due diligence before handing over a life’s savings for our new car, I was re-acquainted with my hatred of car reviews. They are no friend of the cosmically confused. littered as they are with incomprehensible sentences and pointless statistics. “The 63KW direct-rail moon unit delivers a punchy mid range without sacrificing everyday driveability” means nothing to me; I pick out the word punch and go looking or the author.
My favourite critique came from a batty lady who shares my understanding of how cars work. Her diminutive size made boot closure impossible without a small ladder. Or – as would be the first thought of anyone certified clinically insane – shutting it from THE INSIDE having climbed over the sill. Apparently she loved the car because it was possible to release the rear seats while trapped in the boot allowing her to exit via the sunroof. Autocar should sacrifice one of their pompous journo’s and get her reviewing the next Aston Martin.
So after a week with the Yeti, I shall avoid the tedium and banality of those whose life is completed by appending unread contributions to the bottom half of the Internet, and instead compare it to the somewhat pre-loved vehicle it replaced. They are similar only in that each has a wheel in every corner and one stuck usefully in front of the driver. Both have that marketing boxy exterior trumpeting off-road aspirations, and burn oil instead of petrol.
And that’s about it. The x-trail had some proper dirt DNA from the first generation half-truck whereas the Skoda is essentially a jacked up golf thrown together with off-cuts from the Passat’s parts bin. And while the Nissan saved me maroonment in the odd muddy field, it did compromise what I believe car mags label ‘the driving experience‘ elsewhere. Handling specifically; any attempt to corner at over 30 MPH would launch unsecured items – CD cases, Dog, Children, etc into the opposite window only being freed as we wobbled beyond the apex.
Whereupon they’d be unceremoniously dumped somewhere approximating their original location in a whiplash manoeuvre. Watching a 35 Kilogram Labrador experiencing negative G while the driver was cautiously negotiating a roundabout had me considering having the suspension properly furtled*. Not by me of course, with a diagnostic approach based on opening the bonnet and declaring confidently that what we were facing here was an electrical problem- rather the local Garage where that truck had spent rather too much of it’s time under my ownership.
Mainly due to a propensity for eating tyres and brakes, but we shouldn’t forget the tremendously exciting explosion when the French Turbo unit waved a predictable white flag and napalmed its’ remains to the engine bay. I can still place the date, it being exactly four days after I bought the car. Which goes some way to explaining how – in the next three and a bit years – I never really trusted it not to spontaneously combust at an inopportune moment.
In contrast the Yeti feels bulletproof. Something I very nearly had the opportunity to test in the real world, or what passes for it in South Birmingham. Mosely – twinned with the Helmand Province – in the rain is a sight to behold although not – for preference – while stationary waiting for the road to become clear. Clear that is from two young men passing a dull afternoon by punching the crap out of each other having been ejected from a pub doorway some 20 feet away. I couldn’t believe anywhere in the UK could be more depressing. Until I drove into Kings’ Heath.
Anyway I digress. As we’ve established the old x’y didn’t respond well to spirited driving. My new ice cream van is augmented with technology so close to magic it may well be so. Attack a bend that’d have Murf go supersonic in the Nissan, and there’s barely a hint of body roll or fuss even at speeds I’d normally only attain having driven off a cliff. Stopping as well is something now available to me on an everyday basis rather than the trying scenario of hitting the brake pedal, death-gripping the now bucking wheel and bracing for impact.
The engine is a feisty little thing encouraging some happy throttle action even as the dash lights up with ‘you’re killing the planet you heartless bastard‘ . I feel some duct tape may solve that issue. And while I may have lost a tape deck, I have gained so much in entertainment options. A SatNav that doesn’t attempt to route me through Reykjavik is pleasing as are Audio CDs in the boot-6 changer and my entire rubbish music collection squeezed onto an SD card.
All of which can be controlled by either ducking under the dash to randomly stab buttons on the centre console, or whirling various knobs and rollers on the steering wheel. On the upside this allows me to select from one of 24 pre-set radio stations** without having to swallow dive under the passenger seat, but still generally ensures my delight at finding Chris Evans is back on being tempered by ramming a 38 tonne Sainsbury’s lorry lost in my peripheral vision.
700 miles in, any complaints? Not much, the parking sensors scream in apparent pain when faced with anything more substantial than a blade of grass some ten feet away. And the car is now a bespoke colour I’m thinking of as ‘shit brown‘ which is more of reflection of a UK spring than any fault of the car. Oh yes, I can’t seem to find a simple way to fit a bike in.
Here the XT was great taking a fully built bike – even if it would only release it by dragging most of the boot trim with it during a frustrated wrench. The Yeti has many, many clever seating arrangements, none of which seem to have been specifically designed for accommodating muddy and spikey mountain bikes. First I tried removing the rear seats. Well one of them anyway only to be thwarted by their mass which is similar to a well apportioned mid terrace.
Bowed by unbroken, I flipped them forward which sort of worked for the outer two but the middle seat formed a splitter group and refused to lie flat. A quick glance at the manual confirmed that it was entirely flipping useless. A rather longer internet surf suggested this was a well known ‘feature‘ and you’d be better off buying a bigger car if it caused you any sort of problem.
The other obvious solution is a towbar which I have both ordered and paid for. On backorder apparently which is Salesman speak for “we’ve had your cash and when we say a week, what we really mean is not this week. And not next week either. Best call us next year. It’ll be a week from then”
A not very happy interim is both wheels off and a big tarp to prevent a custom angle grinder interior. Any more than that and I’ll have to pre-equip any riding spot with a full workshop to rebuild the bike before any actual cycling can take place.
Still small price to pay. Oh no sorry it wasn’t. But this week driving to and from work has been – if not fun – more than bearable. But the next person that asks if they can have a Mr. Whippy with a flake is going be feeling the rough end of my pineapple.
* A cross between a ‘furtive glance’ to see if there is anything expensive required and a quick fix’ fettle‘ using a sledgehammer.
** All set to Radio 2 of course. There will soon be a further missive on local radio stations, but not until my legal team have petitioned the BBC for a license refund based on the lifelong trauma inflicting by BBC Hereford and Worcester.