It’s got one of those strange flaps on the boot, and a skirt below the radiator at the front. I think they’re meant to make the car go faster, but if you exit the petrol station too enthusiastically there’s a nasty scraping sound as the snowplough hits the tarmac.
It’s a diesel car, which means the engine has a rasping rattle when you turn it on, but once you get going it’s fine. Some of the good things about it: there’s a footrest in a sensible spot for your left foot when you’re cruising down the motorway (so many cars have either no rest or something in a stupid position). And the seats are comfortable. Overall, it’s not a tiring car to drive.
Engine power: it really doesn’t like being on low revs, but if you’re on medium to high revs it’s perfectly happy doing some reasonable acceleration. It’s very happy, for example, going from 50 to 80mph in 5th gear as you clear those roadworks on the motorway. Road and engine noise is tolerable at 80mph: Andrea Corr’s ravishingly velvety bottom Ds came over fine through the car’s speakers, but approaching 90 you need to turn the volume up a little. It will inch up to 100 if you want it to.
The major niggle with this car? The Japanese radio / CD player. I’m not sure if there’s an on/off button. If there is, it’s not obvious. So the only way to get rid of the noise is to turn the volume down to zero. And the thing has a really annoying LED display which is constantly changing. If you want to glance down to see what track’s playing and it’s doing its own thing, tough. It’s rather like the light display you get on pinball machines. Hyperactive and not terribly informative.
And a minor niggle? The indicator thingy is on the right hand side of the steering wheel, which is where it used to be when I was learning to drive 25 years ago. I think in most cars nowadays it’s on the left of the steering wheel, and it’s now where I’m used to finding it, so I often ended up turning on the wipers in the Cerato when I meant to indicate a left turn.
Other things I like about this car: very good air conditioning — quiet and efficient. And very good fuel efficiency. I filled the tank up before leaving home. I was shocked that a tankful cost nearly £50 — and wasn’t sure whether it was a big tank or fuel prices have gone up so much since I last drove a car. But I arrived at my destination over 100 miles away and the petrol gauge was indicating a pretty much full tank. And by the time I returned home I still hadn’t used half a tank. I seemed to get through the fuel a lot quicker on the way home — whether that was a feature of a dodgy petrol gauge or the fact that I had the air conditioning on (or a bit of both) I don’t know. But I reckon the whole 250 mile trip cost me less than £25, which I think is pretty good.
Hired from Practical Car & Van Rental 110-116 Upper Richmond Road, SW14 8DT. Cost: £140 for a three-day rental.