Motor Mouth: The People's Carrier - The MPV is New Britain on wheels, the one that wears Gap and drinks Cloudy Bay

Motor Mouth: The People's Carrier - The MPV is New Britain on wheels, the one that wears Gap and drinks Cloudy Bay - There's a very long road in south London. I don't know whether market researchers have discovered it, but they should as it is an accurate

by STEPHEN BAYLEY, an author and design consultant

There's a very long road in south London. I don't know whether market researchers have discovered it, but they should as it is an accurate, though cruel, linear representation of New Britain. At one end there are council estates and J-registered, paint-worn Nissans swarming aimlessly in that automotive imitation of the po' boy's shuffle. At the other, shiny, late-registered German cars leave their shingle drives with neatly uniformed children on school-runs, in environments that are a Stuttgart executive's low-church concept of luxury. Halfway between, socially and topographically, you find the MPVs - Multi Purpose Vehicles.

The MPV is New Britain on wheels, the one that wears Gap rather than Austin Reed, drinks Cloudy Bay in favour of cloudy bitter, mountain bikes instead of playing golf. So accurate is the symbolic-functional fit between man and machine that Tony Blair's advisers had him in a Ford Galaxy, the category-leading MPV, for his first official photo after the coronation.

They must have decided a Jaguar was too ancien regime, a Mondeo too proletarian and a Range Rover too horse 'n' hounds. But the multi-purpose vehicle was ideal for the multi-purpose leader of New Britain. Not only is it a people mover it is, class-wise, indefinable. And, best of all, its flexible seating arrangement allows travellers to face in the direction opposite to progress. Or, more appropriately, change their minds mid-journey.

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