Clarkson on: attraction
Right now, I'm looking out of my window at the new Subaru Impreza WRX, and I'm sorry, but there's no getting away from the big, all-consuming, overpowering fact that despite a number of outstanding features, no one in their right mind will buy such a thing. Because it looks like it's been hosed down with a massive and sustained burst of fire from the ugly gun.
There is no excuse for this. There are designers at Subaru who can create a pretty car. You only need cast an appreciative eye over the Legacy shooting brake to know that. But Subaru obviously felt that when it came to the Impreza, the badge alone would be enough to carry the day. And therefore allowed the styling to be done by the boss's dog.
They are wrong. No one will buy an ugly sofa, no matter how comfortable or cheap it might be. And while women harbour the Austenesque notion that men find kindness, a good heart and a sense of humour important when looking for a spouse, the fact is that what we really want is tits like the Alps, legs like the Silk Road and a face like Kiera Knightley's.
I like a painting. But I will not buy one, no matter how deft the brushwork, or how well the artist captures the natural light, if the subject matter is James May's scrotum. Because I would not find that attractive.
And look at animals. If I told you the Dobsonfly - the ugliest creature ever to walk the earth - was in danger of extinction, you'd be glad. If, on the other hand, I showed you a picture of some cute little tiger cub that was about to be chopped up by a Chinaman who wanted its bones to make his penis bigger, you'd be on the first plane to Beijing, full of hate and righteous indignation.
No one gave much of a damn when the hideous dodo went West. But when Al Gore says baby polar bears are all drowning (they're not, by the way), half the bloody world puts its patio heaters on eBay.
I'll give you a simple fact. When it comes to cars, looks are everything. What first catches a person's attention is not the reaction time of the sequential 'box or the size of the boot. It is the styling.
You might imagine, if you've seen the clothes I wear, or the hairstyle I choose, that I wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a good-looking car and an ugly one, even if my life depended on it.
But look at the cars I've owned over the years: a Mark One VW Scirocco, a BMW 3.0 CSL, a 1500cc Honda CRX, an Alfa Romeo GTV6, a Ford Escort Cosworth, a Ferrari 355, a Mercedes SL and SLK and a Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Not a minger among them, you'll note.
And it's the same with everyone. You hanker after a Ford Mustang or a Corvette, not because of the noise or the power, and certainly not because the interior is so tasteful and well-appointed. No.
It's because of the way they look. It's why you want a supercar. It's why you never wanted a Pontiac Aztec or a Bristol. It's why I have the Lambo now and not a 430. Because, and this isn't a matter of opinion, it is much, much prettier.
"The Impreza looks like it's been hosed down with a massive and sustained burst of fire from the ugly gun"
What made the Vauxhall Nova such a hit among the nation's youth? Because it was such fun to drive? Because it was so well-made? Because it was cheap to run and cheap to insure? Nope. It's because it had flared wheelarches.
And it's exactly the same story with that all-in-one crumple zone known as the Citroen AX. It won the hearts of every lout and yobbo in the country because, despite the Algerian carrier bag build-quality, it looked great.
I could go on giving you examples from now until the end of time. But I think the case is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Looks matter, whether you're a person, a table, a dog, the crockery in a restaurant or a gun. And they really, really matter when it comes to cars.
Which brings me back to the Subaru and a big question. Why aren't all cars good-looking?
Did the boss of Subaru look at the clay model of the Impreza and say: "Yes, I especially like the droopy arse and the way it doesn't in any way match the front. Oh and I see you've put a life-size model of the Sydney Opera House on the bonnet. Well done."
No, he didn't. He must have known it was even more ugly than David Abrahams, and yet he gave it the green light. And now millions of Subaru fans will have to buy something else instead.
This brings us to the long-wheelbase Mitsubishi Shogun. What's that all about? Who thought that rear-window arrangement would work? And the BMW 1-Series, and the Chevrolet Tacuma, and the Chrysler PT Cruiser, and its sister, the Crossfire Crapping Dog.
And the Fiat Doblo, and the Citroen Picasso, and the Morgan Aeromax, and the Mitsubishi i, and the Peugeot 307, and the Toyota Avensis and its ridiculous mutant cousin, the Prius.
I haven't finished yet. There's the Seat Toledo, the Renault Megane, the Jaguar S-Type, the Mazda 5, the Kia Sedona and that Hyundai whose name I can't be bothered to remember.
Why were these cars made? We know it is possible to make a pretty car, so why employ a stylist who cannot? It doesn't make any sense.
I think the problem is simple though. Today, everyone is too polite. When Jenkins comes in with his ideas for the new car, the bosses are slightly in awe of his polo-necked jumper and his thin glasses. What's more, they know he's been toiling away for months on the project, and they don't want to reward him by saying, "That's terrible."
It'd be like saying to a new mother whose just shown you her baby: "Jesus Christ. I think I'm going to be sick."
I think, however, that since looks and style are the most important part of a car, the board of directors is going to have to gird its loins, follow the example of The X Fact's Simon Cowell and speak its mind.
This brings me neatly onto a friend of mine, who, while staying in Bermuda recently, was invited to a swingers' party. His wife was unwilling to go but, being a decent sort, said that she wouldn't mind if he went on his own.
Sadly, this wasn't possible. The invite said: "Couples only". So he spent two whole days trawling the local bars and nightclubs looking for someone - anyone - who was willing to accompany him.
By his own admission, the girl he eventually found was not what you'd call a looker. But since it was a swingers' party, he felt it wouldn't matter.
It did. He arrived at the address, where a burly bouncer with a curly-wurly, FBI-style ear-piece pointed at the girl and said, "That won't do." And shut the door.
You feel sorry for the "that". I should imagine it was very hurtful. But who knows. Maybe it was just the impetus she needed to go home and do something about her appearance.
I choose my final words on the Impreza carefully, then - that won't do.