A tale of two clutches


A tale of two clutches

Today I took a half day from work so I could go test drive a couple of new cars for comparison – something I didn’t actually do when we bought the current car. The scene went along the lines of “This drives quite nicely. And I see you have it in blue. Cool – we’ll take it.”

Not the best way to have an informed opinion about what you’re getting for your money, although we’ve been pretty happy with the Chrysler regardless. It has never once refused to start and other than one dodgy fog lamp, nothing has gone wrong with it in a year and a half of ownership. So although financially it was a bit of a crazy move, we have had reasonably good value for that in return.

Anyhow, first up today was a Honda Jazz, which drove like a cross between a mini-mpv and a go-kart. It’s the kind of car where practicality and fun collide, leaving me very impressed with the build quality and attention to detail in the design. Sadly it was only a very basic route I drove it on, although on the way back I absolutely chucked it into a round-about to see what would happen. It gripped the road with a similar ferocity to that of the sales-girl gripping the seat and I couldn’t help but smile. The Chrysler would have handled the corner fine at the same speed, but with an amount of body roll usually only found on a bobsleigh.

By the time we got back to the showroom, I was pretty keen on the Jazz. I’ve read reviews galore on it, and watched road-tests on motoring shows, but even so it was still pleasing to find it lived up to the promise. I made up my mind that I was going to be cold and analytical about it and not get carried away, as I still had a Seat Ibiza to test drive later in the afternoon and was mindful that the Jazz is a pricey car.

With Liverpool being a bit of a maze, I made the choice to go find the Seat garage as soon as I was finished at Honda. Unfortunately I found it really easily and was almost an hour early. I killed as much time as possible by browsing on the forecourts, but it was freezing cold and I ended up just sitting inside twiddling my thumbs until I was called for my test drive.

The Seat turned out to be a different kettle of fish altogether, and really felt like a much smaller car than the Jazz – despite being in the same class. It took a while to get used to the Ibiza, too, so it was fortunate that the salesman guided me around a much longer route than I’d taken with the Honda. With some fast dual carriageways and some wide back-streets I got a good feel for the ability of the car and its long-throw clutch by the end of play.

However, it fell far short of what I’d expected, given its What Car? “Car of the Year” status for 2003. When the salesman showed me the numbers, it turned out that the engine and trim level I was interested in on the Ibiza cost the same as the equivalent engine and better trim on the Jazz. So there really was no contest – the Honda is the clear favourite in my book, and it turns out it’s not so pricey in comparison.

With a bit of luck, and if all the stars align, I’ll look into getting a Jazz in the next week or two. It’ll be sad to wave goodbye to the Neon, but I cant wait to be behind the wheel of something a bit more exciting.