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Planting?

I was considering planting today, but a quick look at AccuWeather says to me that this is likely to be the final day of warmth. Tomorrow it'll be warm, but not as much. Then a rainy spell, leading to freezing mornings on and around the 1st of April.
So I think I'll hold off until that has passed.
It'll warm up again, but not this much. Today is expected to hit 20°C again. AccuWeather's longer range forecast goes until mid-May and there's nothing beginning with a '2' in all of those days.

So, all the more reason to sit out with a good book. ☺

 

Microcar Dué

Coming home from work one day recently, a guy with a little sans permis on a trailer overtook in a dumb position. He then slowed down and stopped in the middle of the road and got out of the car.
He walked towards me, ready to say "I'm just a girl, standing in front of a boy"... wait, wrong script. Hang on...
<shuffles papers>

Ah, here we go. He walked from his car waving a brochure.

Microcar brochure
Microcar brochure.

Microcar is part of the Ligier group, and they're basically a competitor of Aixam. And, like Aixam, their cars are also really expensive, such is a captive market.

Inside the brochure, it extolled the virtues of the vehicle.

Microcar Due's best bits
Microcar Dué's best bits.

Such delights as Fancy rims! Heated seat! Redesigned steering wheel!

 

Moving on in the brochure, we reach the two primary options. There's a basic model and a tricked out model.

Microcar options
Microcar options.

The simple model promotes the virtues of: Daylight driving lights, four disc brakes, reinforced door structure, black roof, 12V socket.

The better model talks about: Fancy rims, extra bit of bodywork stuck to the glass panel of the boot, protection strip on the doors, glovebox, large area on the dashboard in which to fill with clutter, Pioneer radio (Bluetooth, MP3, RDS) with two speakers, reversing radar, and a choice of four colours.
You can also add the following options: Power steering, Android media unit (with reversing camera), extra year of warranty, air conditioning, heated seat (only the driver), and design pack (stickers on the doors and fancy rims).

 

Looking at the safety side of things is this page.

Microcar safety
Microcar safety.

Pay good attention to that diagram. The framework that you can see is made of aluminium. All of the bodywork is plastic.
In various crash tests at controlled speeds, the main body is actually fairly solid, but if you watch them on YouTube you will notice two things. In a frontal crash, the entire engine compartment vanishes. So do not expect to walk away from a head on crash. You'll be lucky to have functioning legs.
Side-on crashes are worse. Because of the lack of rigidity, something hitting side-on will penetrate quite far into the compartment. Most likely fatal to whoever is in the seat closest to the impact.

This is because of a legal necessity. In order to be driven by 14 year olds with a simple "road awareness" licence, and people like me with no licence, they are technocally counted as quadbikes. The law stipulates that quad bikes must be within a certain size and weight category, something like 400kg. By comparison a Renault Clio weighs 1,028-1,238kg and a Citroën C4 is 1,209-1,324kg (weights depend upon the year/model and things like manual/automatic, petrol/diesel, etc).
As such, they are forced to use lightweight aluminium and plastic parts to create a functional car within a legally defined weight restriction. I'm quite sure the likes of Aixam would have no problems with making a steel frame and pressed aluminium bodywork, but that wouldn't be a voiture sans permis, it would be a regular car.

This, incidentally, is why I have never floored the accelerator to see how fast my car is actually capable of going. Speed and soft materials is just plain suicidal.
That being said, as fragile and risky as these cars are, they offer many advantages compared to the other option - which is a moped.

Therefore, it is perhaps good to see an extra reinforcement in the door, however I wonder how much difference this would make in a real crash?

Secondly, I wonder about the front and rear disc brakes. Is this better or worse than the traditional arrangement of discs at the front and drums at the rear? That's what my car has, and it's the same on the C1.

The whole "tenue de route" (#3) part is about road handling ability. It's worth noting that the tyres and suspension play a huge part in this. To give an example, there is a fairly sharp left turn at the bottom of a hill two farms away. I go that way every morning on the way to work. With Felicity, I had to take that at around 30kph or I felt like I was in danger of rolling off the road. Likewise roundabouts had to be taken slowly.
With my current car, I can take the bend at 45kph, in other words, not slowing down. I do, depending upon the conditions, but I don't feel like I'm about to roll. Likewise roundabouts, I can take these a little faster so as not to aggravate others because the better tyres and suspension make for better road handling characteristics.

Power steering is an interesting inclusion in a car of this type. I am well aware of the frequent need to manipulate the steering wheel a lot. Pretty much any T junction. I haven't driven with power steering so I won't comment, I'll just say that the Saxo was the first car mom drove that had such a thing (and the C1 after) and it took a while to get used to. She said she feared that if she sneezed, she'd end up on the wrong side of the road.

Daytime lights. It's a bit of a cheat to mention this as a safety point given that it is a legal requirement. Actually, I usually drive with mine off. Why? Because I drive with sidelights on, specifically to ensure that the red tail lights are illuminated. I'm not so worried about the cars in front that I can see and react to, I'm more concerned about the idiots behind. If you want to impress me with daytime lights on one of these sorts of cars, they'd be white in front and red behind.
Maybe one day I'll try bunging a 1N4001 into the wires to have the LED lights come on, well, always. Them plus sidelights, as my sidelights seem a little bit feeble to me.

Finally it says that they routinely perform virtual crash tests during the design state, and they submit their cars (except the M.CROSS model) to be crash tested with a dummy. What they don't state, which to me seems rather telling, is how well they were rated in said test.
Note, incidentally, that this category of car is not really a "car", so it does not require crash testing, safety features, or even regular road worthiness tests (come on, there's no way in hell Felicity would have passed!).

 

Now let's look at what I don't see. First up, it's utterly absolutely and miserably shocking that in 2022 we still don't have airbags in these cars. Even at 45kph, not only will the engine attempt to merge with your legs, the steering wheel will attempt to merge with your head. It's frankly unforgivable that we still don't have airbags.

I also don't see an ABS option. While I have never used my ABS in anger (thankfully no snow, ice, or emergency braking), it gives me some measure of comfort in knowing that there is a little extra help in assuring stability in difficult conditions, particularly giving that for most people their lesson, practice, and examination of skidding happens at the point where they're sliding off the road.

 

The basic model starts out at €9,399, and the better model starts out at €12,299. To put this into context, a proper Citroën C1 (very similar to the Toyota Aygo and the Peugeot 108 which are all about 70% identical) begins at around €1000 cheaper. These are all new prices.

To the basic model, a radio (and two speakers) will cost an extra €149 and fancy rims will add €229. It has a Progress engine, offering 6kW and consuming 3.8 litres per 100km.

The better model has more options. €199 for the Android media stuff, €499 for power steering, €199 for a heated seat, and €999 for aircon. It has a Lombardini DCI engine (in aluminium) also offering 6kW but consuming 3.4 litres per 100km.

By contrast, the current Aixams (Kubota Z482 engine) are 3.1 litres/100km, and the older Z402 is claimed, in a publicity document from 2010, to consume 2.96 litres/100km with 77.9g/km of CO2. Obviously, in test conditions rather than reality, though I'm not entirely certain how newer more environmentally friendly engines manage to burn more dead dino juice.

To compare with real cars, a Citroën C1/Aygo/108 consumes 4.8l/100km (1.4HDI diesel) or 5.4l/100km (1.0i petrol) and a Xsara Picasso is... really bad. Around 6.5l/100km for the diesels, and the 2.0 16v petrol engine is powerful but sucks 9.3l/100km. This is pretty much on par with a Ford Galaxy.
And if somebody is driving a Land Rover Discover 5 with a 3.0 Si6 engine, it's a shocking 13l/100km! But I guess if somebody can cough up around forty grand for one of those, they can afford the fuel.....or maybe not these days. ☺

 

Both of the Microcars come with a two year warranty. You can add an extra year for €349. Seems a remarkably specific price. I wonder what goes wrong that they think will cost that much to deal with?

 

Looking at the detailled breakdown of features, there are some curious omissions. For instance, neither car has front fog lights (literally two bulb units and some wire - about €40 on Amazon).
Neither has a rear wiper. Granted, there may be technical issues given that it looks like it's a solid piece of glass, but still.
The cheaper model doesn't have a rear defogger. Even Felicity managed that, and it's a rather curious omission in a vehicle that they want you to think of as "safe". I use my rear heater a lot in the colder months as early morning cold really steams things up. Thankfully the better airflow in the GTO means the front window isn't affected like Felicity used to be.

Only the better model has a reversing radar. This, again, is a bit silly given that it is literally either two or four sensors mounted into the back and a little controller box that beeps, powered from the reversing light. That's all it is in my car (I found the box stuffed down by the left rear lamp cluster when installing my rear camera). You can buy a kit on Amazon (with four sensors) for €29,99.

The cheaper one has no glovebox. Neither did Felicity, she had a shelf. I found it rather annoying not to have a glovebox. What's worse is it looks, from the interior photo, as if the glovebox area is simply closed and inaccessible - not even a shelf.
Likewise the cheaper model only has a sun visor for the driver. Perhaps more worryingly, only the better model has an adjustable seat.
Both models have electric windows. I wonder if this is simpler to install than mechanical windows?

 

Now to make some observations from the pictures. First up, the front of the car (top image). Underneath the daytime lights is very clearly a place where front fog lights could be fitted.
Now looking at the rear (the wide picture with the woman), the big lights (the white ones) look to be position/brake in the middle and indicators on the outside. There's no third brake light.
The smaller lights down below, the one towards the middle of the road is a fog light, and the other one is a reversing light.

And, finally, the boot. Oh dear god, that boot. Look how high she is holding her bags to clear the insanely high ledge. I can't help but think that will be a nightmare for dealing with anything at all heavy. Amusingly on the rear page (not scanned) they have a tiny photo of a far prettier teenager (promoting the "from 14 years" aspect) holding the same three bags.

 

Now let's look at my car. An older (2013) model Aixam GTO. It was a fairly pimped out model, with the ABS and the metal floor plates and, yes, even the GTO stickers on the doors. But more than that, my car offers a traditional set of rear lights rather than fancy design, and in doing so has reversing lights and fog lights on both sides. Extra visibility. There's also a third brake light at the top, though for the case of large vehicles it might be somewhat obscured by the spoiler.
But, most of all, the boot opens all the way to the base level. This makes it very easy to load and unload things. I certainly appreciate it when buying packs of water bottles.

Of course, I can't really compare the two as the cheaper Microcar is a little under ten thousand new, mine was a little under seven with fifty two thousand on the counter.
A current GTO (and a rather less pleasant looking angular design) is €14,799 new with ABS being €529 extra, the GTO stickers €135, and a spare wheel €161. Or just a shade under sixteen grand in all. Well, I did mention these cars are hideously expensive!

But most of all, I like the reassurance of the ABS and the nice fully opening boot. That's two marks against the Microcar, and the lack of any sort of airbag in 202x is a big mark against any sans permis.
I've read that Microcar are pioneering the use of airbags, but it seems not on these models. Still, I guess it's a start...

 

 

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J.G.Harston, 27th March 2022, 15:50
I only realised my Corsa had power steering when some thingy fell off the wotsit so the battery wasn't being charged. While I saw the 'battery low' light lit what I didn't realise was that the wotsit would power the car in the absense of battery power. I just thought: uh oh, battery low, better not turn off the engine or I'll not start again. No, the battery itself was powering all the electrics, including of course, the spark plugs. 
 
Anyway, over the moors a few miles from home the radio gave out. Then the lights started dimming. Then THE SPEEDO DROPPED TO ZERO! BUT I WAS STILL GOING! The the engine stopped. Argh! 
 
Ok, pull over into that car park. Hope nobody's coming as I can't put the indicators on. Turn wheel... well, attempt to turn wheel... heave heave heave.... Wow, so that's how manual steering feels like. 
Gavin Wraith, 27th March 2022, 22:27
Concerning brakes - if your rear brakes lock up first, the car will rotate through 180 degrees and slide arse-first. With discs at the front and drums at the rear this is less likely to happen. With disc brakes at both ends care is needed to ensure that if there is any lock-up it is at the front. I am glad to hear that your Aixam GTO has better handling. That is a really important consideration, especially for emergencies.
VinceH, 28th March 2022, 01:37
I had to fight with unpowered power steering in my Nissan Patrol when the engine seized (a result of me not checking the oil in the six months I had it). 
 
I was on the motorway, in the outside lane overtaking when it suddenly made an awful racket. I reacted by quickly knocking it out of gear and turning off the engine, so I could bring it to a gentle stop on momentum - but had to steer it across the two lanes and (in this case) onto a slip road rather than the hard shoulder. 
 
Even though it was all reasonably straight being a motorway and slip road, it still took some effort.
David Pilling, 30th March 2022, 01:40
Any stats on safety of driving sans permis - they have it for different colours of car. There was a bloke in the papers in the UK, 84 years old no licence, no insurance, been driving since he was 12, no accidents. I could not learn enough about something. Why I insist on telling people it is illegal to park on the wrong side of the road at night.

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