No space for car-go

Sometimes you wish your car could go holiday with you

ASH WESTERMAN

AS A motoring writer you get asked, endlessly, “So, what’s the best car you’ve ever driven?”

I’m okay with it, but I do wish someone would ask me about the worst. That would be easier.

I could simply answer: “The one I just spent three weeks driving through Italy – a Mini Cooper One D.”

I would then bore my new acquaintance rigid with details of the abhorrent, crashy ride, the inexplicable lack of front-to-rear handling cohesion, and the deafening tyre and suspension noise. I could finish by turning purple with rage and indignation, chestpoking, and shouting, “Who signed off on this little munter? WHO, goddammit?!”

Okay, so it’s probably best you don’t ask me the worst-car question. And perhaps ‘worst’ is a bit harsh. But most deeply disappointing, definitely.

If nothing else, though, the experience of 3500km in the Mini did give me a renewed appreciation of my long-term Tucson. God, I missed it. I may have mentioned this to my long-suffering partner, but only three or four hundred times.

Yes, of course I know these two cars are not comparable in a conventional sense.

But consider the underlying design and engineering fundamentals and you quickly gain an insight into how things get done right, and where things go so wrong.

The Tucson may be low-ish on glitz and interior seduction, but it pretty much nails the fundamentals, especially with its localised ride and handling program. Anyone can jump in, drive it over virtually any surface, and feel confident and comfortable.

Visibility is excellent, the controls are intuitive, the gauges and displays legible and logical. Everyone sits comfortably, has space to store stuff, and in terms of meeting its intended function, there’s nothing at which to point and go, “That’s awful”.

The Mini, in stark contrast, feels like a concerted exercise in putting questionable form over fundamental function. It really irks me that time and money has been thrown at dumb gimmicks while the basics feel to have been overlooked.

been overlooked.

Fortunately Italy’s many charms were enough to lift my spirits each time I got out of the Mini, but there was rarely a moment when I didn’t miss the Tucson’s fundamental rightness, on everything from high-speed autostradas to postcard-perfect backroads. Its planted stance and absorbent ride would have lapped up stuff that sent the Mini into a major-league tizz.

I’d also tender as evidence my upper right arm, having foolishly given my partner permission to punch me anytime I uttered, “Honey, I really miss the Tucson”.

The deep purple bruising has only just started to fade.

Steer me right

When it comes to inbuilt directional sense, I’m more ‘beagle escaped from the backyard’ than I am homing pigeon. Which is to say, I generally get there, but possibly not always by the fastest or most direct means possible. The Tucson’s navigation is so user-friendly and efficient I’ve taken to plugging the six or so suburbs I most commonly visit into favourites, just to see if my usual route between them is actually the best way. Mrs Satellite has wised me up to a few better ways that I previously hadn’t considered. I like this lady. Wonder if she can cook?

HYUNDAI TUCSON HIGHLANDER CRDi

Date acquired: January 2016 Price as tested: $45,490 This month: 203km @ 10.3L/100km Overall: 2283km @ 11.6/100km 0 0 4 9 4 7 WEEK 19

URBAN COUNTRY SPORTS FAMILY MOTORWAY