Alan Judd

Out of control

The elderly lady in the little Skoda reversed cautiously in the supermarket car park, then sharply accelerated into the car behind.

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The elderly lady in the little Skoda reversed cautiously in the supermarket car park, then sharply accelerated into the car behind. Next she accelerated sharply forwards into the car adjacent to the space she had left. She repeated her reverse manoeuvre into a third car, then her forward manoeuvre — this time while trying to turn — into a fourth. Bouncing off that, she maintained forward momentum until finally halted by collision with a passing Discovery.

The Discovery was mine, under temporary command of my wife who, hearing bangs and seeing people running for cover, slowed and looked round in time to see the Skoda torpedo streaking towards her port beam. Damage to the Discovery was slight — a bent rear panel and cracked bumper — to the Skoda, significant. Luckily, nobody was hurt, including the tearful and very shaken elderly lady.

I bet the poor thing was driving an automatic, possibly after a lifetime of driving manuals. I further bet she had been told to drive an automatic with two feet, left for brake, right for throttle. This is approved orthodoxy for some but I don’t get it. If you use one foot for both (as with a manual) it is almost impossible to press both at once or confuse them, as probably happened with this lady. Nor will you risk braking too softly because, most people being right-footed, you tend to be less forceful with your left.

Anyway, the result was that I too ended up driving a small Skoda while the lady’s insurance fitted a new panel and bumper to the Discovery. It wasn’t really necessary — I’d pulled it more or less straight myself — but it looks a lot better now and the Skoda was a dip into modern entry-level motoring. The petrol three cylinder 59bhp Fabia HPT 1.2 is a five-door hatch with a willing chain-cam engine, sensible 15-inch steel wheels, a full-size spare and no frills, though it did have aircon and a comprehensible sound system. It’s group 1 insurance, costs £120 to tax and retails at £8,625.

I enjoyed it; comfortable front seats, easy ingress and egress, adequate space and bouncing along gives you a generally carefree happy drive. There’s some vibration and wind noise but not enough to bother about. Not a lot of power, of course, but it’s fine for pottering about, cruises contentedly at 70mph and returns 47.9 combined mpg. I never drove it in the rain and there were early reports that the driver’s mirror and window were easily obscured by spray, subsequently modified by a dealer-provided A pillar cover. Maybe they’ve sorted that out now.

But don’t rush out for one without sampling some of the competition first. The £7,095 Hyundai i110, for instance, with its excellent chain-cam Kappa engine, £35 tax, plentiful toys and tricks and five-year warranty. Or the 1.2 litre 55ps VW Fox I was sniffing around recently, at £6,740 a loss-leader to get newcomers into VW, well-finished, roomy and stylish with £120 tax and 46.3 combined mpg, though only three doors.

If entry-level motoring doesn’t ring the full peal for you, however, pop along instead to Southeran’s of Piccadilly before 19 June and pick up a bit of glamour from their In Pursuit of Pleasure exhibition of motoring and aviation posters, prints and books. Luxuriate there amid some great motoring art that, if it weren’t reproduced and featuring manufactured goods, would hang in galleries and cost 20 times as much. Or pick up the D-Type Jaguar for £10,000. All right, it’s a model but it’s solid silver and will no more depreciate than the real thing, unlike your Fabia.