As I near the tender age of 24, regrettably, my life long passion for cars has yet to be properly fulfilled. Most notably, ownership of my own set of wheels! Not the best start to a blog about cars but hey, you have to start somewhere! Soon after hearing of a further delay to my return to work, my dad brightened the mood by informing me that he would insure me to drive the family Clio on our trip to France, visiting my French Grandmother in Normandy. A trip I know all too well, but this time I would be driving! Finally, after many years since I had got my licence (nearly 7 now ffs), I could tick off yet another important driving milestone. Driving on the wrong side of the road!
Now I must admit, this particular blog isn’t about a car as such. For the car I would be driving is one I share with my mum: the cheap to insurance, 1.2L 16V 2012 iMusic Renault Clio. Other blogs on more exotic cars are available! I could write about the sloppy suspension, indirect steering or even the flimsy plastic materials inside, but that wouldn’t be very interesting. Oh wait, I just did. Instead, I thought I’d share my experience of accomplishing my second notable driving milestone.
Before setting off, I was under the impression that driving on the wrong side of the road would be the most unusual aspect of our rather not-so-intrepid road trip. Perhaps driving through a train for the first time? Or even driving up and down the ridiculously high Pont de Normandie? No, but to be honest, I have been a passenger in all three of these scenarios many a time. Maybe it’s not such a surprise then that the most startling element of our journey to my dear grandmother’s, was in fact the smoothness of the French motorway system. Have I lost you already? I hope not because this revelation caters some good food for thought about British motorways. In case you were wondering, this is a blog about driving. If this isn’t your cup of tea, I’ll say it again, other blogs are available!
To really understand anything about driving, you have to drive. I know that seems rather obvious but it leads me on to my next point. Having a French family means that over the years we have driven to nearly every nook and cranny of France. Mainly in an old Renault Laguna, with no suspension left on the thing whatsoever. But having also spent many years driving around the UK, I can confirm that something’s fundamentally wrong with both the quality of asphalt on our motorways and the bumpiness. Spending time driving on French motorways encouraged me to reflect and remember the countless times my father would comment on the beautifully smooth nature of them. They’re lovely roads!
I know exactly what you’re thinking. How can this one trip form the basis of such an opinion? Well, it’s worth noting that the Clio was packed to the brim. That sloppy suspension I was telling you about? Gone. Along with it, any power the poor thing had to begin with. Yeah, it really struggled up some of the steep inclines along the A16 and A28. Tyre noise? What tyre noise? The roads were smoother then the legs of a beautiful bikini model. Just lovely. I had recently visited both Manchester and Sheffield on separate trips and of course to Dover to catch ‘Le Shuttle’. The M1, M6 and M40 weren’t too bad but still rather bumpy for a Clio with nothing in it. And the quality of the asphalt? Well let’s just say road noise became a nuisance on all three trips. There’s only so much you can turn up the music to pass the time before going deaf. Compare that to the French autoroutes with little to no suspension, and that says something. And don’t get me started on the M25 which is hell even with just me in the car. Whoever thought paving a motorway with concrete slabs was a good idea?
It’s worth noting that France experiences a travelling circus of European holiday goers every year. That’s why they have tolls. Think about it… would the French be willing to pay a hefty road tax only for “les roast beefs” to reap the benefits? Of course not, there’d be a second revolution! Merde! But anyway, this is probably the reason for their heavenly autoroutes, they’re not short for cash and they’re privately run. Now I know what you’re thinking. Didn’t you drive on the M6 last week? That’s got a toll! It’s a great motorway, smoothest in Britain! Well yeah you’re right. It’s pretty good. It’s not brilliant though, and its worth noting that around £5 billion is made through road tax in the UK each year (according to Auto Express). Is this being spent wisely? The “Smart Motorway” fiasco would suggest otherwise. Not that this is a politically motivated blog, but I reckon there’s a lot to be learnt from our European neighbours. I mean, in terms of motorway systems. Obviously we’re great at doing everything else!
We don’t need to have tolls on every motorway. They just need to be surfaced properly; it makes a motorway enjoyable, protects your hearing and takes better care of your vehicle. Fantastic! What does a smart motorway do? I’ll leave that for you to decide; personally they’re not worth thinking about, it’s better that way. So, if you’re like me and have always wanted to experience driving on the wrong side of the road, I’d highly recommend it. It won’t by any means be the unusual experience you were expecting!
By James Drujon
Renault Clio iMusic 1.2L 2012 – £5,500 (second hand – 20,000 miles)
|Average Fuel Consumption||48 mpg|
|Co2 Emissions||135 g/km|
|Acceleration (0-62 mph)||13 sec|
|Top Speed||104 mph|