BACK from a weekend staying at my neighbour’s villa in Portugal. Not only did I have use of his Algarve home, but also the use of his left-hand drive Renault 19. It is 17 years old and in immaculate condition. UK fleet managers must wish for a sunnier climate to protect their cars from the elements, make them last longer, and possibly make them worth more money.
SOMEBODY asked me why we drive on the left-hand side of the road, and the rest of Europe on the right.
There are many different answers, but the favourite dates back to the 1700s when everyone walked on the left-hand side. This was because most were right-handed, and the sword was carried on the left, so the sword could be pulled out ready for a duel.
Revolutionary France changed this practice in Napoleon’s days, as he was left-handed, so his troops had to follow. From then on, any country with links to the British Empire stayed on the left, and those with French links on the right.
There are 167 countries with steering wheels on the left, and 76 on the right. Those in Europe can sell their used vehicles in a variety of countries, but for fleets in the British Isles the nearest right-hand drive markets are Cyprus or Malta – a long way to go to sell a used fleet vehicle.
A BIT confused over SEAT’s new Altea XL – an extended version of the Altea. It’s been stretched by 187mm, making it 4.46 metres long. Here’s where the confusion starts, though, as the Toledo is 4.45 metres long, making the XL longer than its bigger brother.
SEAT says the XL is aimed at buyers who would normally buy a more practical car such as a Peugeot 307 SW. Maybe they should call the XL the Alteledo.
DOWN to the BMW factory in Oxford to have a look at the new MINI. The Cooper and Cooper S are available from late November and the entry-level One from early 2007, while the new diesel engine produced in co-operation with PSA is due around April.
It’s a truly British affair as the new petrol engines are being produced at Hams Hall.
The MINI has undergone a complete change, but the successful design has not been compromised. One change is that the front lights now stay firmly fixed to the body and are not incorporated into the bonnet – this should make front-end repair bills cheaper with the new model.
SOMETIMES a letter comes into the office and I have to call the manufacturer to make sure it’s not a late April Fool. This happened when I read about a new garage for the Citroën C6. It costs £112,330 and means the C6 can now live in a futuristic glass home. It looks great, but where would you put your bikes with flat tyres, broken ladder, tumble dryer and workbench?