Today's cars are rubbish primarily because they're not lousy enough... er, what?
Modern Life is Rubbish PHOTO: TORQUE

This modern age is a tough time to be a motoring journalist. In addition to
the drudgery of swanning across the globe driving in some of the most picturesque locales known to man, I also have to endure near-terminal writer's block writing about cars that aren't truly ghastly.

Modernity has given us – besides such innovations as sliced bread and the fount of knowledge that is Wikipedia – cars that are, by and large, decent.

It's at this point you might be wondering how that is a bad thing. Vehicles that don’t seem powered by a hairdryer motor, with a driving
position that wasn’t designed with an orang utan in mind, or simply one that doesn't spontaneously combust at an inopportune moment (the drive home during rush hour, for instance) can only be good, right?

Heck, if nothing else, any car these days has a proper air-conditioner,
meaning one that doesn’t do an impression of an asthmatic gnat (just
like the fan below my desk, but that's another story).

But it's all a little counter-intuitive. The demise of the frightful car, put together by a troop of drunk, gibbering baboons, has made my job writing about them so much harder, simply because they aren't exceptional, for good or bad.

Thanks to modern engineering and quality standards (damn you), most vehicles these days are average. If I were to rate cars on a scale of
100 points, at least three-quarters of those that come my way would
score between 50 to 65 points. Not bad enough to have me entertain
thoughts of pushing them off the nearest cliff, but not good enough that I'd remember them beyond the submission of a review either.

If you haven't already guessed, we writers are a perpetually angry lot.
Our veins run with venom and our saliva is laced with vitriol. Heaven
forbid that we actually will have to say something nice instead of being
snarky. In short, we need bad cars like... er... a thing you really need.

Of course, it’s not like the awful car has gone extinct.

For that, you’ll have to look East, my son, to the last great automotive frontier (i.e. China), especially from its more provincial automakers. Featuring cars with such names as Bolliger and Acumen, with equipment highlights such as “cucurbita-shaped door mirrors”, the 2013 edition of the biennial Shanghai Motor Show is promising to be a doozy. But that’s a story for next month, when I bring you the show’s “greatest hits”.

Thankfully, high COEs (meaning very high price floors) have largely insulated us from the Chinese automotive industry’s more, shall we say, iffy exports.

Yes, modern life truly is rubbish. The average person might be grateful
that these days, his/her car isn’t likely to blow up, fall apart at regular
intervals, and a fender-bender probably won’t be fatal, but it’s made
life for the average writer (that is, me) that much harder now.

And unless COE premiums come down or someone is foolhardy enough to import a deathtrap, tough times (for motoring journos, at least) are here to stay.