Heidi Colthup: Driving ambition stuck in mud

My car is missing a rear window wiper. According to my 10-year-old sons, it is, therefore, time to start buying What Car? and Auto Exchange, and watching Top Gear. The last is compulsory viewing in our house anyway and now that the new series has started, Sunday evenings are complete.

The great thing about basing any vehicle purchase on Top Gear’s recommendations is that farming families – and, indeed, most rural people – tend to buy a car on the basis of how long it will go in all weathers with as little money spent on it as possible. Meanwhile, the Top Gear presenters do this for fun with their famous driving challenges.

So far, we’ve seen them drive across the USA, come up with better police cars and, most recently, trash HGVs. I wonder if they could now take on the challenge of finding a Good Rural Car?

First, they would need to take into account the wants and needs of the average country-dweller. Jeremy Clarkson’s main aim for a car is for it to be fast, fun to drive, macho and, ideally, not German, although he usually appears rather keen on any car that aims to take over the world.

Richard Hammond clearly needs a car that has full impact bars on every surface for him to remain safe, as he appears more unlucky than your average Young Farmer. One of my sons believes the Hamster is the best role model for any young man. I disagree.

I’d rather stick with the suggestions put forward by the lovely James May – not only will he pick out a nice comfortable car that will be safe and not too fast, but he’ll also suggest a good red wine to go with it.

Where most people buying a new vehicle are looking for a bit of luxury inside, such as leather seats, deep carpets, air-conditioning, satnav and a multi-CD player, I’m looking for washable seats that the mud won’t stick to. That comes from living out in the sticks, wearing wellies almost constantly and having two rugby players in the family.

I want washable or removable carpets that the aroma of animal wee won’t stick to I have nervous felines that require trips to the vet, but can’t control themselves while in the car.

Air-conditioning would be lovely, but because of those nasty smells in the carpet, keeping the windows open is probably a better option. Satnav would be great for those trips to civilisation (or town, as I like to call it). But to be honest, tom-tom drums would be more effective in the wilds rather than Tom-Tom navigation.

As for a CD player. Well, as much as I’d like to listen to either the spoken word or the latest music releases in the car, most of the time I listen to Woman’s Hour, The Archers and occasionally the news.

But let’s think about what we need from the outside of a vehicle, Mr Clarkson et al – style, beauty, fashionable colours, sleek design, aerodynamics, and admiring glances from the neighbours.

What does the average farmer want from his vehicle? Style: Can it move in the style of a tank through deep mud or snow? (It might be a hard winter, you know.) Beauty: Is it rust resistant, or at the very least will it take being coated in mud and then pressure-washed once every six months? Fashionable colours: Mud is fashionable around here. Sleek design: A tow bar is a must, but could they possibly put a pto on to a car? Aerodynamics: Can it tow a trailer full of logs without dropping any?

If a car can do all these things, it will get admiring glances from our neighbours, and even more so if you can fit a sheep in the back, too.

Mr Clarkson, are you listening?

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