It’s not long until Top Gear is back on your telly with the usual mix of arguments, idiocy and great clouds of tyre smoke. For the new series, however, there will be one slight but significant change: a brand new Reasonably Priced Car.
Over the course of three years and five series the old Kia Cee-apostrophe-Dee has been a faithful and reliable friend. What a life it’s had too, welcoming a glittering cavalcade of celebrity bottoms into its specially fitted race seat, from rock gods like Mick Fleetwood, Alice Cooper, and Slash to A-list heartthrobs like Tom Cruise, Ryan Reynolds and John Prescott. But the Cee’d we use is now an obsolete car and, more importantly, the physical celeb lap board we use in the studio is almost full up. It was either change the car or commission a new, slightly taller board. And that would be ridiculous. So, sorry Cee’d, it’s time to say goodbye.
The problem is, what to replace it with? We’re sometimes asked why Top Gear doesn’t spice things up by putting the star guests in something really fast like, say, a Lamborghini Aventador. Well, first of all the Lambo may be excellent but it’s not exactly reasonably priced. Nor is it very easy to get hold of one every week so that a mid-ranking celebrity can come along and attempt to scrub all the writing off its sidewalls. Besides, a car of that power and performance would scare the living snot out of a less confident driver and bring the prospect of a large and extremely messy accident for the more balls-out contender. Either way, we’d be looking at legal proceedings. No, the Reasonably Priced Car has to be something of adequate performance but no more.
Finding a car to fit that remit isn’t hard. The trickier bit is defining ‘reasonably priced’. Back when Top Gear started there seemed to be loads of bargain basement bits of metal kicking about. Now all the companies that made such bog-standard cars are doing their best to move upmarket. But ‘reasonably priced’ doesn’t simply mean ‘cheap’. It means good value, impressive equipment levels, walking into the showroom and adopting a quietly delighted expression upon being told what you can get for your money.
With that in mind, earlier this year Top Gear assembled a range of likely candidates at our top secret Reasonably Priced Car testing facility in Surrey (at the end of Stovolds Hill, just off the B2130 near Cranleigh) and got The Stig down to give them a good thrashing. We also had some of our production team there to poke around the interiors, rigorously making sure they were big enough to accommodate a roll cage and all the minicams we rig up to capture our celeb guests’ reactions. Slowly but surely we rooted out the cars that were too slow, the cars that were too twitchy, the cars that wilted under pressure and eventually we found what we believe is a car that’s just right.
So, after all of that exhaustive research, the all-new Reasonably Priced Car is… something you’ll see when the new series begins at the end of June.