Ford Ranger 2014 665x297

Why not consider a weather-beating pick-up?

As I write this I’m sitting in an Airbus A319 at the end of one of Heathrow’s runway. I’m not going anywhere as there’s a bit of wind outside that’s making it impossible for the pilot to get the plane going in roughly a straight line. The way the plane is rocking around on its wheels suggests it’s probably wise to hold off for a little while.

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Outside of Heathrow, trains around the entire south east of England have been cancelled just in case something happens somewhere. It’s not just having leaves on the line, but just the possibility that there might be leaves on the line.

Dover is seeing delays on the ferry crossings to France, the swelling waters of the English Channel proving too tough for the 47,000 tonnes of P&O’s finest.

This isn’t going to turn in to a tirade about how we can’t cope with adverse weather in the UK, or how ineffectual industry becomes once health and safety and risk assessments start to interfere.

And despite the occasional SNAFU from the Highways Agency’s traffic officers, where an entire motorway can be closed because a motorbike has broken down (I’ve witnessed that happening), this won’t be about how the roads can’t cope either.

Toyota Hilux 2014 Phil Huff
Toyota Hilux Invincible

In fact it’s only the roads that have been left unaffected, with drivers for the most part going about their usual daily routines. The M25 was moving, the A1 was flowing and the Heathrow access roads were open and taking traffic.

By the time you read this, the storm will have passed but I can’t help thinking that the transport issues will somehow carry on for two or three days.

However, should the country end up under a few inches of water and a blanket of trees, greenhouses and garden trampolines, you’ll need something to negotiate your way through the detritus and in to the office.

This could be why pickup truck sales are heading north. Sizeable, indestructible and unstoppable, these behemoths of the road work wonders in catastrophic conditions, but are just as happy nipping off to Waitrose to pick up kumquat. I can only imagine what the panic buying is doing for stocks of kale, mangosteen and rambutan.

Great Wall Steed 2013 Phil Huff
Great Wall Steed SE

I’ve talked before about how good value the modern day pickup is, offering seating for five in leather-clad comfort with an climate controlled cabin allowing you to relax with a gentle breeze keeping the temperature at 20 degrees. Or, if you’ve been out chopping logs to throw in the back, perhaps 19.5 degrees would be better.

True, they’re not the world’s most efficient form of motoring, the somewhat agricultural diesel engines struggling to achieve a great deal beyond 30 miles per gallon and, with that, pumping out a not inconsiderable number of CO2s.

If you’re a company car driver, you’re probably breaking out in to cold sweats right now at the very thought of a family car with CO2 emissions the wrong side of 200 g/km and what that means for your tax bill.

Isuzu D-Max 2014 Phil Huff
Isuzu D-Max Yukon

Fear not though, as the government are still viewing these opulent three-box four by fours as commercial vehicles, which means you’ll be paying tax on a fixed value of £3,000 rather than on up to 32% of the value of a ‘normal’ car. That could save you well over £100 a month, which could be more than enough to cover any increase in use of the black stuff you’ll face.

Of course, the predicted apocalyptic weather hasn’t actually generated enough disruption to cause the roads any significant problems (at least not as I write this!) so perhaps a gas-guzzling monster truck isn’t entirely necessary.

This brings me to why I’m trying to fly off to Munich. Assuming the flight leaves, I’ll be driving the new Tourneo Connect from Ford, the latest in a growing breed of van-based cars. It’s a niche the French have carved with the Peugeot Partner Tepee and Citroen Berlingo, but the big boys now want a bite of the cherry.

Ford Tourneo Connect 2014 Phil Huff
Ford Tourneo Connect

Assuming the car is all it’s cracked up to be, and given Ford’s current track record for making cars people actually want to own there’s every chance it will, you’ll soon be able to drive a car that packs in five people, carries near endless cargo and manages to do it all with comfort and some sense of style thrown in.

It won’t be for those that enjoy driving ‘enthusiastically’ or who want to make a statement when they arrive somewhere, but the same is true of the utilitarian pickups. Instead it’ll quietly get on with being a form of transport for a family with hobbies, but at well under half the price of a truck and returning over 50 miles per gallon.

Could we be about to see the emerging popularity of a new sector that’ll appeal to both the normal family buyer and the fleet buyer at the same time, a sector that has frugal cars priced against those from Dacia and with BIK rates of sub-£100 a month even for 40% tax payers?

I’ll find out if we ever get off this bloody runway!

[button link=”” rel=”nofollow” color=”orange”]This article was first published at on 29 October 2013.[/button]

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Phil is a motoring writer for print and web, failed racing driver, car hoarder and banger rally competitor. Nominated for the Headline Auto Rising Star award and a MGMW member, Phil freelances for outlets as diverse as Diesel Car magazine, and Cambridge Magazine, amongst many others. He also maintains a fleet of unloved motors, but spends most of his time driving an old Corvette.

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