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Friday, 23 November 2012

Towards a Feminist car

In case the irony in Feminists Have A Point went undetected may I say I try to support women’s viewpoints, albeit silently, thus without the grammar.

Many women’s choice of car is imposed. Thus their car is often:

(a) Small (Low purchase price (LPP), less power, easier parking, low consumption, ostensibly better ergonomics)

(b) Bottom of the range (Cheaper, less “complexity”)

(c) Manual (LPP, lower consumption).

(d) Petrol engine (LPP)

(e) Less visibly macho (Less vulnerable to male drivers)

(f) Oddly coloured (The only inexpensive option left).

But the opposites of these features have beneficial sides. Take Small: More powerful biggish cars are less demanding to drive (fewer gearchanges), quieter, more restful on long journeys, have more carrying capacity (eg, for baby impedimenta) and in the case of larger US cars with far greater steering assistance, easier to park. More power need not be feared; the driver is in control; the power need not be used; it doesn’t “sneak up”. Alas, small car ergonomics means fewer adjustments.

Less “complexity” Cheap cars often lack reversing sensors; vital in parking garages. Ignore arguments (always male) saying these “de-skill” driving; the aim is to travel not take a degree. Expensive cars usually have more copious lighting, remote radio control, better info systems – all recognisably helpful.

Automatic gearboxes no longer absorb fuel. My two-litre turbo-charged diesel car (ie, medium to biggish) has a six-speed autobox and has consumed fuel at 51 mpg since purchase. Autobox changes gear more efficiently than I can. Much, much more restful.

Petrol vs diesel. The latter lacks LPP but is cheaper to run. So, buy second-hand. Especially in France.

ESSENTIAL Ignore advice of male driving enthusiasts; they speak a different – often subjective – language. Given the choice I would have a chauffeur.


  1. Like most women, I'm not car crazy. Yet I did most of the research online and zeroed in on our current vehicle, a van yr. 2000. Of course F. and I looked over the details together, went for test drives comparing different brands. I found the best price online which was matched by the local dealer who also gave us lifetime free oil changes.

    Best vehicle we've ever had, no problems ever, great for both city and country driving! Lots of power, great manouverability. Mileage a bit on the high side in the city compared to today's improvements but very good back then. It seats seven, which is great when the family travels together or when we have visitors from overseas. Back seats go down, center ones come out, so it's also great for hauling stuff, a feature important to F. Yes, it's a big vehicle by European standards.

    Here they (likely men) call women who drive these kinds of vans, somewhat scornfully, 'soccer moms'. Shrug, they don't know what they're missing.

    I've turned into a car advertiser, see what you did :-)

  2. You advise buying second hand "...especially in France".

    On my travels through France I have hardly ever seen a second hand car garage, whereas we have them on every street corner. I presume the French must sell most of their second hand cars privately, but what happens to part exchanges taken in by new car retailers?

    What about a lady chauffeur and a big car? You would be in your element then.

  3. Good to know about automatics - I didn't know they had gotten more fuel efficient. I like our current car (a manual VW Passat TDI) for its power. Even though it is a bit big for squeezing through the cobble stoned streets near our house, it comes into its own on long drives (and on snow covered passes).

  4. M-L: We would only call that a van if it had no side windows at the rear (which I'm assuming it has). Otherwise we'd call it a minibus. In euro terms you're a small transport company rather than a domestic homestead.

    I'm fascinated by the lifetime's free oil changes. How long do you keep your vehicles? Actually it would be less of a bargain for me. My first oil change has yet to arrive (at 20,000 miles) by which time I'll have had the car two years. Mind you this requires very special oil which costs more per litre than single-malt scotch.

    In fact my post was aimed at women who get the soggy end of the lollipop because they belong to two-car families and the choice is made not by them but by their hubbies. I was also addressing single women who believe it is women's destiny always to drive small cars, seeing them only in terms of ease of parking. It's important, yes, but it shouldn't be the only consideration.

    Sir Hugh: Most French main dealers (who also sell secondhand cars) are found on industrial estates and only chronically negligent map reading would have taken you through many of those. Older, cheaper cars are sold in smallish numbers by filling stations.

    Julia: Modern autoboxes are quite different from the three speed "slush pump" autos only suitable for large capacity engines with plenty of power to waste. In effect they are automated manual boxes, hence six speeds. And in my case they can be operated manually as well (useful for holding gears when coming down long mountain passed in the Pyrenees). In fact my Skoda is also a TDI although it is designated a 2 litre rather than a 1.9 litre and this makes it quite a bit more accelerative.

  5. Me, I like to see a woman driving a powerful car, preferably a sport car, the wind about her hair.

  6. Joe: Here I am being terribly PC and you aren't helping a bit.