Over at Top Gear -- that poor stepsister to Car Lust -- James May had a 3-episode series on Cars of the People (which, you know, we've been highlighting FOR YEARS). Largely devoted to automobiles designed for ordinary folks to carry out their daily business in -- like the VW Beetle, Ford Transit Van, Citroën 2CV, Ford Mustang, Fiat 124/VAZ-2101, and various other primarily inexpensive automobiles produced for the masses -- it was an exercise ostensibly directed at determining what the ultimate Car of the People was. Not the car everybody wanted, but the car that the majority of people needed and could get along with and, you know, use.
What do you think he decided on?
The VW Golf.
"Pah!" said I, "That's not it because. . . .well, because it's. . . .I mean, it can't be since the real ultimate People's Car is. . . . .hmmmmm."
And you know, I couldn't really come up with any good reasons. It seats five. Drives well. Has a hatchback so it's practical. Covers a range of budgets, from basic to hot. And over six generations since 1974 it's sold over 30 million copies so they've got to be doing something right.
Maybe. But for my money, it's the Honda Civic. It comes in sedan, coupe, and hatch versions in a variety of trim and option levels, it's more reliable and cheaper to maintain than the Golf, and has had its own hot hatchback at times. It hasn't sold quite as well though, only reaching about half the number of the Golf in about the same amount of time (sales figures here). So maybe I'm wrong (perish the thought).
Then there's the Toyota Corolla, the best-selling nameplate ever at 40 million and counting. That must count for something.
He mentioned the Model T and I think that, considered across the entire span of automobile history, I would probably go with it over everything else. It was the first car that was really built for the masses and it fulfilled that role magnificently. As I noted earlier, the Model T was for everything from an around-town runabout to delivery trucks -- beer, milk, you name it -- to ambulances to farm implements. They fulfilled every conceivable use and made motoring a part of daily life for everyone, not just toys for the rich.
So, what do you think? The Golf? Civic? Toyota Corolla? Something else?
And feel free to discuss anything else auto-related that comes to mind. Beetle photo from Wikipedia.