Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Today’s superminis would make Gordon Gekko envious

IT’S 1986 and you’re that well-off walking stereotype of the moment – the young urban professional. A yuppie, in other words, and you’re proud to admit it.

Naturally, you do what everyone else is doing with their latest big bonus, and wander over to your nearest Mercedes showroom. About an hour later, you emerge with a big smile and a minty fresh 190E on order – and you’ve ticked every single box on the options list.

Fast forward 29 years and it’s paired up with another product of 1986 – me. After a brief test drive you’d have to conclude Stuttgart’s finest ages fares far better than a base-spec Simister of the same vintage, because 124,000 miles later absolutely everything still works perfectly. There is something mind-boggling about how a Mercedes that’s as old as I am still feels like it could do a round trip to the Moon without going wrong.

But in terms of gadgets it’s positively outclassed by even today’s smallest and cheapest offerings. In the same way you now get more computing power in a smartphone than NASA used for its Apollo missions, it’s now possible to get Yuppie-impressing levels of luxury in a Hyundai i20.

Alright, so I cheated a bit – it was the range-topping Premium SE Nav rather than the austerity-spec S – but I was still impressed by how much of a Gadget Show prize giveaway the Koreans have squeezed into their second smallest model. You get satnav, Bluetooth, USB connectivity, a helping of electric everything, anti-lock brakes, cruise control, a top-notch stereo you can operate from the steering wheel and – pause for breath – front AND rear parking sensors. Porsche 944 man would have fainted in disbelief if you’d offered him that lot back in 1986!

There are two truths here. Firstly, that the motoring world has come on to the extent that your brand new supermini is effectively a shrunken LS400, but more importantly that you only have to look to what Gordon Gekko Jr is buying right now to see what the Hyundais and Vauxhalls of 15 years’ time will have.

In-car WiFi, in-built fridges to keep your drinks cool, massaging seats and radar-guided cruise control? It’ll happen one day – and I bet that 190E will still be plodding on too.

1 comment:

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