KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 12 — I’m not partial to boring, mundane cars. I’ve always held the belief that driving is one of the most exciting things one can do. To have absolute control over the power of internal combustion is a miraculous thing in this day and age.
I reckon, therefore, that the experience should never ever be squandered by a car whose sole purpose in life is to transport you from point A to B as painlessly as possible.
Case in point : A friend of mine left me with her most cherished belonging – her newly acquired hybrid eco-hatch for a day while she took a day trip to Penang on business.
She hated airport limos and didn’t fancy leaving her car in the airport long term car park for the entire afternoon.
So, with the promise of a free dinner and free use of her car for a day, she got me to send her to the airport and keep her car safe for the 18 hours that she would be out of town.
Having never had a hybrid for that long before, I was initially thrilled at the thought of an impromptu, extended test drive of sorts of this eco-warrior.
Although not a huge fan of anything parading eco-friendliness ahead of driving pleasure, I thought it was a great opportunity to see if I could potentially live with one of these “green” cars as a daily drive. With gas prices going nowhere but up, it was a scenario that I reckoned could seriously rear its ugly head in the near future.
I had hopes. Good God I live on them. But rather predictably, what transpired were simply the most mind-numbing 18 hours of my motoring life.
Sure, it was economical. It was quiet. It was actually very comfortable. And despite all the techno-mumbo-jumbo that made the thing work, it was passionately reliable and utterly conventional to drive.
And that’s where, ladies and gentlemen, the problem starts.
It was so conventional that, save for the fancy displays on the dash, the driving experience was no more exciting than a ride in a garden-variety city runabout. In other words : it was perennially dull.
The handling was safe but, if I’m to be entirely honest, about as exciting as watching paint dry. In the twisties, this car simply ran out of ideas long before the driver did. Turn in a bit enthusiastically and the car starts falling over its front wheels in an understeery mess. Any Proton would show this car a clean pair of heels when the roads turn a bit twisty.
The engine was a willing little thing, but the whiny CVT had the most annoying habit of keeping the engine where it was the loudest, buzzing lustily while the car slowly crept up to the legal speed limit. And when I say slow, I really do mean it.
The word “glacial” came to mind when I decided on an impromptu drag race with a Perodua Viva at the lights near my office.
And as for the promise of awesome economy? Well, it certainly did better than I expected, but at 5.5litres per 100km as indicated on the trip computer, wasn’t exactly ground breaking.
With a little perseverance, a light foot on the accelerator and slightly over-inflated tyres, my own little Proton Gen.2 can get 5.7litres/100km to show on its trip computer.
And mind you, as flawed a product as the Gen.2 is, it still manages to deliver the experience of motoring from one point to another in a significantly less anodyne manner.
At the end of the 18 hours, I gleefully returned the car to its rightful owner.
When asked whether I enjoyed my time with her tree-hugging friend, I simply said this : “Loved it. I’ll buy one when I’m six foot underground, thank you very much.”
Rather predictably, she didn’t see the humour in that…