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Thursday, 17 September 2015

Why I love the unloved Allegro

THERE are plenty of great cars I don’t particularly like. Yet it takes a different sort of topsy-turvy logic altogether to like what’s widely regarded as Britain’s worst car.

If you’re the sort of armchair car critic who’s had their idea of what constitutes a rubbish car cemented through a lifetime of Jeremy Clarkson DVDs then you might as well click away now. If on the other hand you’re prepared to give even motoring’s worst offenders a fair trial, then you’ll be shocked by the verdict.

I’ve just spent the past three days hoofing about in an Austin Allegro – and I really enjoyed it.

It’s fashionable to give the poor old Allegro a kicking. In the past couple of years the tabloids have picked up on at least three surveys naming and shaming it as Britain’s worst car, in 2012 a Tory peer likened a poorly thought-out Government policy to one and Jeremy Clarkson could only think of the Morris Marina when looking for cars he hated more. In fact, I nearly joined them when a 1.1-litre Series 3 Allegro left me stranded on the M11 a couple of months ago.

So I wasn’t expecting much when a colleague chucked me the keys to his pride and joy – a V-registered Allegro 1.3 in a fantastically Seventies shade of brown with beige seats. Certainly, I wasn’t expecting to fire faithfully into life every time I tried to start it. Surely British Leyland relics from the decade that brought you the three day week and Terry and June aren’t supposed to do that?

Nor was I expecting it to go and steer in a genuinely entertaining way. I know from the 1.1-litre car I borrowed a few months ago that to drive they feel a bit like a Mini that ate all the pies, but this 1.3-litre car had just enough extra oomph to overcome the podge. I know you’ll find it hard to believe, but the right Allegro is a fun car to drive!

What’s more, it has room for five, the interior’s light and airy because its window pillars are so much thinner than today’s hatchbacks, and if you look hard enough you can still pick decent ones up for under a grand. Just about the only downsides are the lack of a hatchback – bizarrely, the logic was that giving it one would harm sales of the Austin Maxi – and looks that I think are cute and distinctive but most people hate.

So the world’s worst car is actually not all that bad. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it!

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