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The new Maserati
Quattroporte is, in many ways, a breath of fresh air. Here, at last, is a car
that’s truly, madly bad. Armed with a ridiculous price tag, it wades into
battle with a slightly bent peashooter and adaptive suspension that doesn’t
 work.

It is ugly. It has an engine that sounds
like it’s trying to mix cement. The leatherwork is shoddy. It is badly equipped
and it has a clock shaped like women’s bits. You wouldn’t want to buy it, but
at least you can discuss it, with much finger pointing and shouting, over a
beer. That automatically makes it better than some of the dross I drove last
week. My God, there are some boring cars out there.

Bring the Hyundai Lantra Estate up in a pub
and it would have the same effect as putting a Mogadon in everyone’s drinks. We
all know someone like this car - someone who tries to disguise his innate and
inbred ability to redefine tedium by wearing a stripy orange and brown tank
 top.

The car is quiet, it will rarely break down
and I’m sure it would buy its girlfriend - a librarian - chocolates on her birthday.
At work, it would have a sign on its desk saying: ‘You don’t have to be mad to
work here - but it helps’. What a wag. What a git.

Then there’s the Rover 400 Saloon, a Honda
Civic with delusions of grandeur. It’s someone who’s made a few bob and thinks
that by shopping at Hacketts and wearing brogues he’ll be accepted by the
country set.

Volkswagen has cocked up, too, with its new
Polo saloon. What a heap of steaming manure this is. The hatchback is a
charming and funky little device with cool graphics, a wild range of colours
and lots of street cred. But by putting a boot on, the designers have put the
boot in.

Could this car really be worse than the old
Derby? I think so. Could it be worse than the old Vauxhall Nova saloon, with
the elephantine proportions and the unicycle wheels? No, that’s ridiculous.

“Bring the Hyundai Lantra Estate up in a pub and it would have the same
effect as putting a Mogadon in everyone’s drinks”

I’d like to tell you about the Daihatsu
Charade at this point but nothing springs to mind. It’s a glass of water on
 wheels.

Hey, what’s this? It’s the new Audi A4
rattling into view. Now this is some car, beautiful to behold and made with the
sort of care normally reserved for Space Shuttles. But wait. What’s that under
the bonnet? Oh no. It’s a diesel.

Start it up and there’s the familiar clatter
which can give old people arthritis. But this one has a turbo, so when you put
your foot down, especially at low revs, there’s some serious grunt. The trouble
is that the power band is so narrow, you only need blink and it’s all over.
‘Dear Deirdre, My car suffers from premature ejaculation. What should I do?’

Deirdre replies. ‘This is a common complaint
which is getting worse as more and more people fall for the turbodiesel sales
patter. Leave your car now and go for a real man: one with a petrol engine’.

This is not to say that unleaded is the cure
for all our ills. Witness the VW Passat and the SEAT Toledo, cars which, if
they were ovens, would cook food.

Then there’s the king and queen of horror -
the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Almera. Styled by adding machines with interior
trim by BhS, this duo leave me so cold, hypothermia starts to set in.

After a spin in either, even the Vectra
starts to look like a Ferrari F512. But it takes more than casual comparisons
to enliven the Astra. Like the Escort, this car is barely fit to be a pox
doctor’s clerk. It isn’t especially good value for money. It isn’t handsome. It
isn’t noteworthy in terms of performance and it doesn’t have microwave
reliability either.

I could fill up the rest of this magazine
with cars that just don’t make the grade. I’d need 44 pages alone for the
Nissan Serena Diesel which takes an almost unbelievable 26 seconds to heave
itself from 0-60.

The best thing is to list the worthwhile
mainstream cars. It won’t take long, so here goes. At the bottom we have the
Ford Fiesta and Nissan Micra. In the middle, the Fiat Bravo and Renault
Migraine. Up a bit and the Mondeo and Pug 406 dominate.

Further up, say hello to the Audi A4 and the
Honda Accord. And at the top, the BMW 5-Series makes big sense. Though Jaguar
and Mercedes also do something pretty special for 30 grand.

If it isn’t in this list,
frankly, it isn’t worth the metal it’s made from.

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