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Yes, it’s big and striking and practical and – we’re told – extremely safe, but underneath, it’s just eggs and flour. And for ?50,000 you could do better. The Mercedes CLS springs to mind. So, too, does the Jaguar XJ.. It gets worse. After my snorkelling expedition, I tried to rent a jet ski. But a state law meant that I had to sit down, in the blazing sunshine, and take a written exam. What’s to learn? There’s a throttle and that’s it. My daughter was riding a jet ski at the age of five. An idiot could do it. I pointed all this out to the blond surfer dude who was running the course, but it was as if he’d been programmed: safety is everything.. Of course, it wouldn’t be quite so good if the name were writing cheques the body of the car couldn’t cash. You can’t be called Clint Thrust if you have a chest like a teaspoon and limbs from the canvas of Laurence Lowry.. Then there’s the air-conditioning. Or, rather, there isn’t. VW calls it semi-automatic air-con, and I’m sorry, but there’s no such thing. It doesn’t work. And as for the trip computer, it told me about oil temperature, which isn’t interesting, or it was a compass. And that’s not interesting either.. It’s a problem with all these gearboxes. They’re good when you are travelling fast, but in town they jerk. You don’t get the creep of a normal automatic or the slip from a clutch pedal in a normal manual. I realize, of course, that flappy paddles mean better emissions, which is good news for polar bears, but for smooth driving, they’re pretty hopeless.. There’s another problem, too. The car I tested was priced, with options, at ?31,840. That is a colossal amount of money, but despite this, it didn’t even have a satnav system.. So you can imagine how I felt about the home-brand all-in-one‘music centres’ that Currys and Comet started to sell in the 1980s. Oh, they looked all right, with all their flashing lights and damped cassette-release mechanisms. And I’m sure they were fine for listening to Dire Straits’ albums at suburban dinner parties. But for someone like me, they were only a forked tongue short of being the actual devil.. To find out what it might be, I’ve just spent a week with a 208, or to be specific, the mid-range 1.2-litre VTi Allure. It’s a good-looking little thing and at ?13,495 it’s well priced, too, especially given the amount of equipment provided as standard.. Which brings me to the new BMW 1-series. The top-of-the-range M135i has been winning rave reviews because, unlike the hot hatches made by every other company, it has rear-wheel drive. This means you can‘hang the tail out in a corner’.. That’s another issue with the RS 4. It felt like it was set up to scythe round Druids with no roll at all, and yet it weighs more than 1? tons. Some of that is muscle from the big V8. But most of it is fat.. It’d be the same story with cats. I’m afraid that if I were prime minister I’d announce that they must all be executed. This would prompt a great deal of debate and eventually I’d be forced to say, ‘Oh, OK. Your cat can live. Just so long as it doesn’t leap into my lap and show me its anus.’. But, despite the unusualness, the company never lost sight of its origins. It started out making piston rings for Toyota and knew that quality was the beginning, the middle and the end of everything.. It’s not alone, either. At present, the Giulietta is ho-hum and the MiTo is ghastly. And if we plunge into the pages of recent history, we find the 8C, which wasn’t quite as good as it looked, and the SZ, which was the other way round. But only because it looked as if it had been designed by a madman. The 33, the 75, the 156, the 159 and the 164? There’s not a great car there. Just many puddles of oil on your garage floor.. There’s more, of course, but we must move on at this point to the optional thermal-imaging camera. When engaged at night, it projects a greyscale image of the road ahead to a screen on the dash, and – get this – when it detects a pedestrian, the person in question is highlighted in red.. Sadly I was not able to run him over because the Mercedes has a system that applies the brakes even if you don’t. The same system allows you to engage the cruise control in stop-start traffic and sit back while the car quite literally drives itself, maintaining a safe distance between itself and the car in front..