UK’s love affair with the small car

By Miranda Lightstone-Styker

After spending a few days in London, England I came to realize that we North Americans are just mental about the size of our cars. I saw one large vehicle in London the entire time I was there. One. And it was an American-bred Escalade and it looked horribly out of place. Now, before you get all up in my face, listen to my reasoning and my observations.

There are “larger” cars in the UK. I know that. I did spot a Mitsu pick-up on the highway when I was being driven back to the airport — however, that was at 5 a.m. while I was still drunk from the club I’d just come from 2 hours before, so I’m not entirely sure it was real. There are Bentleys and Jaguars and black taxi cabs that are, inevitably, larger than most. But the majority of vehicles in the city of London are petite. And that’s just fantastic.

Why you ask, oh faithful reader?

Because their roads are so bloody small and tight!

Throughout my stay I was transported by a Merc Sprinter-like vehicle (also larger) and it raised the hairs on the back of my neck to see some of the streets he squeezed down with nary a blink or hesitation. Roundabouts are taken at speed and corners turned without pause. Incredible. He just whizzed around as if he was in a MINI Cooper, not a minivan. I was impressed. And I was also taught why smaller is better in London-town.

I think I saw more MINI Coopers in 3 days then I’ve seen since they were introduced in Canada 8 years ago. I was in heaven. And the 1-Series BMWs in the UK are fabulous. They have awesome-looking little diesel hatches that would just be amazing here. VW R32s, retro-looking Fiat 500s and goofy looking G-Wiz cars had me whipping my head back and forth every time I left the hotel.

Yes, I know I was there to see the city and learn the history, but come on, I was supposed to NOT look at cars all week?! I was in heaven.

While we took a walking tour of Fitzrovia, the area where our hotel was located, my fellow journalists snapped shots of the scenery, the architecture and the area while I was focused on the G-Wiz charging stations (so cool) and Ducati bikes lined up in front of pubs. Yes, I know I’m odd. Such is usually the case.

Small cars really are the way to go. They are economical, practical and fun to drive. Of course, if you’re in need of a larger vehicle (farmer, contractor etc.) then by all means, load on the tonnage and the horsepower. But if you’re just a regular old city worker who goes to the country every now and then, you’ll want to stick to the Fiestas, Golfs and Coopers (in my humble opinion). And that’s just what Londoners do. They aren’t compensating for something wtih larger vehicles, they’re simply purchasing cars that are fun to drive and fit on their roads and in their parking spaces. I even came across a convertible smart car that looked a bit like a Lotus (in a very primitive way), so even the greenies are fancy in London.

Another great thing I noticed while traversing the streets of downtown London is the ability drivers have to part whichever way they want. That’s right, you can park the opposite way on a street and NOT get a ticket. Fascinating — and practical. So many times I’ve spotted a parking space on the opposite side of the road, gone past it and circled back only to find it’s been taken. Very frustrating. I’m not quite sure why UKers get the privedge and us NAers don’t.

I promise to have more about my adventures in the UK as well as more photos and to get back into a more regular blogging schedule. I’ve had a hairy schedule to keep up with over the past few weeks, and my jaunt across the Atlantic wasn’t at the most opportune time. Until next time, oh faithful reader.

Drive on,
– M.

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