Drive away a time­share car

The Jewish Chronicle - - MOTORING -

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

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