Clarkson on: the Nissan Sunny
Men in suits, be they government ministers, insurance company bosses or police people, are convinced that it is young men in fast cars who constitute the biggest hazard on the road.
This hazard is perceived to be so great that the punishment meted out is horrendous. Steal a car and they'll send you to the Red Sea for some scuba diving, but drive a car too quickly, even for a moment, and they will remove your licence. Your job disappears down the toilet and you will come home one night to find your wife's moved in with someone else. Someone who still has wheels.
I have never been inconvenienced by a young man in a fast car. Blink and you've lost sight of him in his own tyre smoke. Who cares? By far the most terrifying sight on the roads today is the Nissan Sunny. This is Freddy Kreuger on wheels.
Anyone who is not interested in cars tends not to make a very good driver. And there is no better way of demonstrating a complete lack of interest in all things automotive than driving, owning or having anything whatsoever to do with a Nissan Sunny. The Sunny is a stupid looking car that handles like a wheel-barrow and is neither fast, economical nor cheap, but the infernal Consumer's Association says it's unlikely to break down.
So old people buy one and drift around as though it's 1947. They haven't got to grips with roundabouts or motorways or filter lanes or pelican crossings or anything, really. So long as they're going roughly in the right direction, that's fine.
Should you come up behind a Sunny, you might imagine that its driver is being deliberately obstructive, veering all over the road, braking for no reason and so on, but usually this is not the case. First, the driver's body is so racked with osteoporosis that it has shrunk to a point where he can't actually see where he's going, let alone what's behind. And second, he assumes there is nothing behind him, simply because there wasn't anything in 1947.
"I followed a Sunny for 15 miles and never, not once, anywhere in the world, have I seen such a display of truly appalling driving"
And anyway, if by some miracle he does notice that there is a 30-mile queue of red-faced young men stuck in his wake, you must remember that he is a Which? magazine reader and will, therefore, be mean spirited. The passive resistance to your increasingly desperate attempts to overtake will become active.
Last week I followed a Sunny for 15 miles and never, not once, anywhere in the world, have I seen such a display of truly appalling driving. Eventually I could take no more and, in perhaps the most idiotic move I've ever made, slammed my car into first gear on a blind bend and shot past, flicking Vs and snarling.
Had I crashed, the full force of the law would have been brought to bear as the shrivelled-up has-been explained to anyone who would listen that he was trundling along at 20 and that this huge, wailing Jaguar had flashed by and that I deserved everything I got.
Since then, I've started to notice Nissan Sunnys more and more and in every case they are being driven not just badly, but in a fashion that leads me to deduce that the driver is blind, mad or dead. If they indicate at all it's done on a random basis. They stall at the lights. But worst of all, when attempting to pull out from a side turning onto a main road, the driver will wait until the road is clear for eight miles in both directions before initiating the lunge.
The trouble is that ‘waiting too long at a junction' is not against the law. You could get them with ‘driving without due care and attention', but acquaintances of mine in the traffic police say this is notoriously difficult to prove. So I find myself wondering whether it is time for some new laws.
‘Driving while under the influence of Clement Attlee' might work, but we should stop short of making it illegal to drive a Nissan Sunny for one simple reason: if the Sunny was outlawed, all the bad drivers would disperse into other cars like the Proton or the Toyota Corolla or the Rover 200. This would make them hard to spot until, perhaps, it was too late.
So I think we should stick with the present system where all the hopeless drivers have Sunnys, but to make them that little bit more obvious at a greater distance, all of them should be painted vivid lime green.