£500 Challenge: Puma races a tube train – which commuter wins?
James pits the Puma against the Underground in a cross-London dash
JAMES SADLIER A friend of mine claims that the London Underground is the fastest and least stressful way of getting around the nation’s captial. So when he recently said that he had to get from Cockfosters to Heathrow on the Piccadilly Line, I challenged him to get to his destination faster than I could in CCW’s £500 Ford Puma. He said that this was unfair because I could cruise around the M25 and easily get to Heathrow first, even in heavy traffic. So I agreed to drive via Holborn tube station and take roughly the same route as the train before meeting up with him at Hatton Cross tube station car park.
While he ran in to Cockfosters station to get his ticket, I had to wait to get out of the car park – not a great start – but the drive through East Barnet and East Finchley to Camden was smooth and quick. Traffic lights were turning green en masse and I sensed that I was ahead of the train, which I reckoned would be slowed down by stopping at stations to allow the capital’s commuters to disembark.
The Puma was in its element on north London’s busy urban streets, but I hadn’t accounted for most of the roads south of King’s Cross being jammed with stop-start traffic. Frequently not knowing which lane I was supposed to be in didn’t help either, but the little Puma darted through narrow gaps in the traffic and allowed me to accelerate quickly into the right lane. I even got the the better of a few black cabs. So long, guv’nor!
The traffic began to thin out beyond Soho, Westminster and Belgravia and the A4 through Hammersmith beckoned en route to the M4 beyond. I’d lost so much time in London that I knew I’d need a miracle to reach Heathrow before my tube-travelling friend, so it was a relief to find only light traffic on the motorway. Impressively, the Puma felt as perfectly at ease here as it had earlier in all that city traffic.
As I pulled in to Hatton Cross tube station car park, I could see my friend waiting and grinning with victory. He’d made the journey in an easy 91 minutes, whereas I’d taken an hour and 46 minutes.
Still, driving the Puma through heavy London traffic had been great fun – it was the perfect car for the job.
James found the CCW Puma’s twin brother on the way home from London – though it was a lot dirtier! The Ford Puma on the starting line at Cockfosters underground station. Traffic here was light, but that wouldn’t last for long…
COCKFOSTERS GREATER LONDON M25 HOLBORN HEATHROW