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|Subject: Clarkson Review On The Gen 7 Celica Tue Oct 06, 2009 1:20 pm|| |
- Quote :
- I think all of us assume that evolution is a long, drawn-out affair and that it took many years for the brontosaurus to mutate into the peregrine falcon, and for the penguin to lose its power of flight. But new evidence from . . . well, me actually, suggests that evolution in fact moves at what might fairly be termed a “right old lick”.
For instance, if you or I were to press a doorbell, we would use an index finger. Whereas if someone under the age of 15 pressed the same doorbell, they would use a thumb. This shift has happened because of the text messaging service available on mobile phones, and by what’s seen by many as the scourge of the modern age: the PlayStation.
Of course, those of a corduroy disposition will now be thumping the newspaper and explaining in loud, harrumphing tones to their ne’er-do-well teenage children that “if Sony’s black box of trickery and witchcraft can play havoc with the hand, imagine what it’s doing to the brain”.
Well, I’m sorry to relieve myself all over your yesterdays, but nothing terrifies me more than my children coming in from the garden and asking me to whittle some willow they’ve found into a bow and some arrows. No, wait, there’s one thing I worry about more, and it’s: “Daddy, can we play Monopoly?”
Monopoly is like the Middle East. There is no end to it. I truly believe that nobody in the whole of human history has ever actually won a game of Monopoly. Because winning means overcoming levels of boredom that can drive a man mad. Forget sitting in a Perspex box for 44 days, and try spending the afternoon driving your hat around London instead.
What’s more, nobody knows the rules to it. Does the money from the Income Tax box go in the middle or into the bank? And if it does go in the middle, is it yours when you land on Free Parking? Then, when all your properties are mortgaged and you have no means of paying the rent for a brief stop on Regent Street, does the player with the hotel take over your assets, and are they automatically unmortgaged or does he have to pay? If so, whom does he pay?
Such things are probably explained in the instruction book, but that was lost in 1971. And anyway, it doesn’t matter, because one of your children is always willing to lend you some money to keep the damn game going.
Then there’s Risk. Winning the world requires you to throw a constant stream of sixes for two days. If you fail, you are likely to spend the rest of your life huddled in a corner of Canada.
And Cluedo. I believe Colonel Mustard did it with Miss Scarlet in the library with a piece of lead piping. And do you know, I don’t care.
In theory I like Scrabble, but even here there are flaws. Like it doesn’t work if you play it with children because they cry when you write “underpass” across two triple-word scores. And you can’t play with adults either, because the winner is always the person who knows the most obscure two-letter words, such as “ay” and “jo”.
And the sort of person who clutters his or her head up with nonsense like this is not the sort of person you want in your house.
My son has recently decided he likes chess, so last weekend, in a moment of man-and-boy bonding, I agreed to sit down for a game. But it was hopeless. I kept beating him. And it’s much the same story with my daughter and Boggle. After three minutes she ended up with “dog”, whereas I had 28 words, one of which was “salivating”.
The PlayStation, on the other hand, is a leveller. Which is why on a Sunday afternoon we in the Clarkson family enjoy nothing more than slotting the James Bond disc into the hole and spending the afternoon round the fire shooting one another in the face.
You may say it’s mindless, but then what’s a crossword puzzle, if not mindless? And what’s mowing the lawn? What’s traipsing round Homebase for that matter? I think an electronic games console is one of the great inventions of the modern age: you can play football without getting dirty. You can snowboard without being stoned. You can race cars without killing yourself and you can be James Bond without getting worn out.
This then, is another prop in the argument that everything now is better than everything then. Which brings me neatly, if a little late, to the Toyota Celica, which, like all the worst board games, seems to have been around for a couple of thousand years.
It makes do with a 1.8 litre engine, which, despite a never-ending number of Vs and Is on the cam cover, is an asthmatic little box of tricks that struggles to conjure up much performance. I mean, 0 to 60 in 8.7sec — how 1982 is that? It’s the sort of get up and go you’d expect from a diesel these days. And it’s front-wheel drive. Oh dear.
Inside, there is no satellite navigation, no cruise control, no fingertip remote system for the stereo, no ingenious cup holder, and the seats have all the body-hugging grip of a kitchen chair.
The only reason why so many people buy this car — and it is a big seller — is the fact that in recent years it’s had a Monopoly. Just about all the other car makers gave up with the coupé market. Fiat pulled out, VW dropped the Corrado, Honda stopped making the Prelude and Nissan cancelled the 200SX.
So if you wanted a little bit of style, a little bit of panache, you thought about buying a Hyundai Coupé, decided it was too much of a Risk, and went instead for the Celica.
Now, though, things are changing. Nissan has the 350Z, which was designed in America by an Indian man from Leicester, and it looks sensational. It goes well, too, thanks to a French 3.5 litre V6 engine. ()
Then there’s the Chrysler Crossfire, another international offering that has US overtones but Mercedes foundations. Essentially, it’s a Mercedes SLK with an eye-catching body. And best of all there’s the Mazda RX-8, with its sublime Wankel rotary engine, its low price and, thanks to backward-opening rear doors and a big boot, lots of practicality as well.
If there was any justice in the world, we could end now. I’d make some pithy remarks about how the new cars are the PlayStations for the modern generation and how the board game is up for Toyota’s old has-been.
As a result, my introduction about the history of family entertainment would make perfect sense, and everyone would be happy.
However . . . each of the new cars is flawed. The Nissan is so wearisome on a long drive that you’ll arrive with blood coming out of your ears. The Chrysler has the arched back of a dog doing its number twos. And the Mazda, so I recently discovered, has suspect wet-weather handling.
So we end up back in the Toyota Celica with a big, big smile on our faces. That’s because, first of all, prices start at £16,500, which is exceptional value. And second, it is an extremely pretty car. There isn’t a single angle from which it looks awkward. It drives nicely, too, with a compliant ride and sharp steering. And there’s bags of grip, not too much understeer at the limit, and you can even get sub-teenage children in the back.
Then there’s the performance. Yes, 0 to 60mph in 8.7sec looks pretty hopeless, but it doesn’t tell the whole story because the VVVVVVT-iiiiiii engine delivers all its get up and go between 6000 and 8000rpm. So, in the real world, you do have plenty of oomph for overtaking.
Last night, coming home from a Top Gear recording, I had one of those memorable drives that happens only if I’m driving a memorable car.
Let me put it this way: the Mazda RX-8 would use its thumb to press a doorbell. The Nissan would use its head, and the Chrysler, meanwhile, would be doing its business on the lawn. But the Toyota — like you and me — would use its finger to press that bell, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
So this, despite all the odds, is a properly good, grown-up car.
Model: Toyota Celica 1.8VVT-i
Engine type: Four-cylinder, 1794cc
Power: 140bhp at 6400rpm
Torque: 127 lb ft at 4200rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual, front-wheel drive Fuel/CO2: 36.7mpg (combined) 185g/km
Top speed: 127mph
Acceleration: 0 to 60mph: 8.7sec
Verdict: Cheap and cheerful but still capable of teaching the young pretenders a thing or two
_________________1990 Toyota Celica GTR 4WS ST183
- Steer From The Rear, Literally!