autos

Matt Prior: Are posh French cars really hard done by in the UK?


Someone cynical recently commented on Autocar’s website that DS models are routinely awarded two stars too few by our testers.

Given that would have made the previous two DS cars we’ve tested worth a five-and-a-half stars out of five apiece, that seems harsh. And it would have made the 9, as tested last week by Steve Cropley – one of the finest reviewers who has ever worked in this business – a six-star car. No, four will be what it’s worth.

The commenter’s implication, though, was that posh French cars are hard done by in the UK. Well, yes, they may be hard done by here, but not by us. We report as we find, but the car-buying public is harder to convince about cars like the 9.

What struck me about Steve’s review of the 9 is that it contained a phrase from the importer that was the same, almost to the letter, as the one in a Cropley review of the Citroën C6, that loveable comfortable barge, of 2006: that success would be measured by selling the car in hundreds rather than thousands.

The truth is that a large French saloon or hatchback could be a truly earth-shatteringly great motor yet still have trouble appealing to those who want a German badge on the nose of their car – and there are so many of them that the Mercedes-Benz A-Class is one of the top-10 selling cars in the country. Indeed, buyers shunned Citroën doing ‘posh’ so convincingly that its parent company invented the DS brand.

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In some ways, the C6 was if not quite earth-shattering then certainly uniquely compelling in its segment. I once drove one home from Austria in a single day, and it was supremely comfortable and easy-going. I got into a conversation at the Eurotunnel terminal with a guy who I thought was just plain interested in the car – but turned out to be a Citroën dealer curious as to who had bought one.

Shame. With just the right level of quirk, the C6 remains terrifically good-looking too, I think. But browse the classifieds today and you will find just four for sale. In 15 years’ time, will this be the fate of the 9 as well?

■ If, like me, you were wondering why so many high-performance EVs seem to have four-figure power outputs, an engineer suggested the answer to me recently. And it’s not just that, because EV motors all make a similar noise, you want some kind of sensory overload to engage you in the process, and that comes from truly uncomfortable acceleration. Although I’m sure that’s a factor.



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