Drive away a timeshare car
DO YOU absol u t e l y n e e d to own a car? Many people need one only occasionally o r a t weeke nds. T hat’ s t h e i d e a o f the Streetcar club. The scheme costs £49.50 for annual membership and this gives you a smartcard, enabling you to go to one of the many Streetcar locations, get into a car and drive away.
I tried the scheme at a recent launch, and found it worked very well. Hold the smartcard against the windscreen, and it unlocks the door. In the glove box you find the key and from then on you use the car key in the normal way. If a thief breaks in, he can get hold of the key, of course, but without the proper code and booking formality it will not operate the car.
Obviously it’s not quite as simple as owning your own car and keeping it at your own home. You have to book your vehicle, by phone or on the internet, and you have to go to the agreed location where the cars are kept.
Booking a car can be done even as little as 30 seconds before it is needed — but at busy times, there is a risk that all cars may be reserved.
The member pays £3.95 per hour, covering the first 30 miles. After that there is a charge of 19p per mile. A weekday’s hire is £35, or £49.50 per day at the weekend. There are no petrol or parking charges. Cars are kept in dedicated bays.
You will need to predict the time by which you will return the car, but bookings can be extended by phoning at least 15 minutes before the reserved time is due to end.
The limitation of the scheme is the availability of a convenient location for the cars, but obviously it is intended to appeal most to those wanting a car in urban areas. The club has 600 cars across 400 locations in London and five other cities.
The scheme has 20,000 members, and hopes to add a further 10,000 next year. There is no choice of models — what you get is the Volkswagen Polo Bluemotion, which has a 1.4-litre threecylinder diesel engine, giving claimed fuel consumption of 70.6 mpg.
Of course, part-time access to a car is not enough for daily school runs, getting to work, or other frequent commitments that make car ownership essential, no matter how much the government tries to tax them out of existence. So you may want to buy a Volkswagen Bluemotion instead. It has now gone on sale at £11,995, with the prospect of very good fuel economy and CO2 emissions so low that there is no annual car tax to pay.
With the ever-increasing costs of running a car, the emphasis is on economy motoring. Mazda went against this trend with the launch of its new petrol-only off-roader, the CX-7, featured in the JC on October 12, but has now followed it up with an environmentally friendly and much- improved version of the Mazda2.
This new small car, with stylish and very aerodynamic appearance, is nippy and responsive and comes with a choice of three petrol engines, plus a diesel to follow later.
The range starts with a 1.3-litre at £8,499, or for £1,500 extra (total £9,999) there’s a more powerful 1.3, giving 86 bhp and including a lot more equipment. This version seemed to me the most attractive of the new Mazda2 models.
There is a 1.5 Sport, but it has lower gearing, firmer suspension and, in my view, not enough extra equipment to justify its rather high price of £11,799.
No price has been fixed yet for the diesel version of Mazda2, but I was able to drive the only example available for testing at the recent launch in Scotland and was impressed by its liveliness and smoothness.
At tickover you could hardly tell the engine was still running, which is unusual for a diesel. Usually they are throbbing away.
So, if it’s not too expensive, the diesel could be the one to go for in this new and improved five-door hatchback.
Early in 2008, Mazda is due to launch another important new car, which will
Superpower: Audi RS6 quattro Avant with V10 Biturbo engine