The car we drive can reveal an awful lot about a person’s social position, according to etiquette expert William Hanson. For many of us, our first cars will always be looked back on with fond memories. VW Polos are generally a smart choice for those in Europe while a Toyota Corolla, VW Golf of Ford Focus would do for those in North America. But what does your car really say about you?
Audi – once driven by polite middle-class couples, the moment the TT model was released the brand stole the mantle that BMWs once had and are generally owned by incredibly bad and boorish drivers. Seemingly the minimum speed they can do is 50mph.
Bentley – a new one, like a new Rolls Royce, may be seen as ostentatious unless you are royalty. Vintage models are better, if you must.
BMW – these have switched places with Audi and are now the go-to ride for the middle-class and middle-aged.
Ford (Galaxy) – Who ordered an Addison Lee?
Land/Range Rover – the Discovery, Sport and Vogue models are de rigueur for Sloanes, although some footballers and pop stars do also own these. Those who own Evoques often act as if they have ‘made it’. Frankly, it’s an entry-level Range Rover, so get back in your box – and you probably bought it on finance. The interior was designed by Victoria Beckham so is automatically nouveau and the exterior looks like it’s been sat on by Gemma Collins.
Lexus – only for people with masonic tendencies.
Mercedes – their recent geriatric image is slowly fading and they are once again becoming slightly more ‘cool’. The A-Class is driven by middle-aged housewives who ‘pop’ to buy groceries. Still be wary of Mercedes saloon models: people will assume you are chauffeur.
Mini – always driven by relatively wealthy women in their early 20s.
Renault – these don’t say a lot, frankly. They are the car equivalent of a Boots meal deal for lunch.
Rolls Royce – those who have them and are PLU refer only to them as ‘a Royce’. Calling it ‘a Rolls’ is very downmarket. No one ever admits to owning one.
Smart – are these still a thing? Seeing these parked sideways is still irritating.
Toyota (Prius) – presumably you work for Über? Three stars.
Volvo – driven by geography teachers and suspect individuals.
Convertibles – Ah yes, the convertible – so called as the roof comes down, not that they convert balding middle-aged, mid-life crisis men into rock stars. There is zero point in owning one of these for use in Britain. I can only presume you bought one so you can now hear everyone else calling you a poser.
Colour – Silver, greys, black, mid to darker blues, and British racing green remain the smarter choices. White will not only show every mark and spec of dirt but is also chav-tastic. Red car drivers are usually the ones who tailgate. Red Audis or BMWs are the worst. Hot pink cars, usually Beetles, and usually also with eyelashes added to the headlamps, are only driven by those who are moments away from being sectioned. Whatever paint you have a gloss finish is the norm. The increasingly seen matte paints are gaudy.
Baby on board – You have to drive so close to read the irritating yellow sticker you end up being far too close to the driver, so if they braked suddenly you’d end up crashing into them. Counter-productive?
Customization – A good way to make sure people know you’ve got all the gear but no idea is to send your Range Rover or Mercedes to Overfinch or AMG for ‘performance and styling customization’. The added monikers and detailing will be the envy of no one with any taste or class for miles around.
Spoilers – It is no coincidence that this word starts with SPOIL. Avoid at all costs.
Cleanliness – The interiors of cars of the upper classes tend to be a tad messy. And when I say messy, I mean borderline filthy. Dog hairs are a cert, horsehairs – more than likely. The outside very much comes inside. They are not for the faint-hearted. Similarly, the exteriors are often splatted with mud, manure and bucolic residue. A car to the aristocracy and gentry is seen practically – to get them from A to B. They don’t see it as a possession, or something to cherish and nurture. They are deeply puzzled, perhaps troubled, by reports of middle-age men cleaning, waxing and buffing their ‘pride and joys’ most weekends.
Number plates – Personalized plates, ones like BMW 24, or ‘J0HN 1’ are very much off the smart agenda. They have a strong whiff of a mayor of a provincial seaside town. Retaining a number plate, however, is fairly chic, originally meant so people couldn’t obviously date or value your vehicle (in the days of alphabetical plates). Especially useful for the self-conscious upper-middles who didn’t want others less ‘well off’ to see they were driving around in a new car.
Tinted windows – There is no excuse for your car to have tinted windows unless you are part of the diplomatic corps.
In conclusion, it’s probably far smarter to be driven, than drive.