Some are launched great, some achieve greatness and some have minicabness thrust upon ‘em.
Just in case you wondered, that’s not a direct quote from Shakespeare’s 1602 theatrical epic, Twelfth Night. I have, in fact, tweaked it ever so slightly to dabble into that oft-maligned aspect of modern motoring, the private hire taxi, or minicab as they’re more commonly known.
We’ve all endured enjoyed the privilege of a special trip out in a short-term hire limousine, quite often at night, when our senses fluctuate between tingly and numb and our eyes focus independently of one another.
But that doesn’t stop us from appreciating the softness of the sagging and stained velour seat trim with our faces as we trip inside and offer helpful advice to the chauffeur that we know an even better way to our destination.
Even in a state of inebriation, the petrolhead within us is still functioning well enough to recognise what car in which we’re about to embark upon a stomach churning journey.
Chances are, you’re likely to be in one of the Top Ten Minicabs.
10. Mercedes-Benz C220D
You can’t go wrong with a Mercedes taxi can you? Go on holiday to the Med and they’re everywhere, kept in pristine condition with nicely air-conned cabins. So on the odd occasion you get in one here, why does it look and smell like the driver’s been living in it for a month, with all manner of biological experiments naturally occurring on his seat where it’s moulded to the curve of his buttocks? Naturally we’re talking about a poverty-spec Classic model too, with impeccably scuffed wheel trims and sweat stains on the pale grey upholstery. “You can’t go wrong with a Mercedes, though, can you? 350,000 miles and it’s only needed servicing twice.”
9. Daewoo Leganza
A rare beast on the taxi circuit these days but always worth hunting out if you spot one on the rank. If luxuriating on the slippery PVC-like leather and admiring the unusually styled facia weren’t enough, as the driver pulls up you can play your trump card: “did you know this car started life as the Giorgietto Giugiaro penned Jaguar Kensington concept car presented at the 1990 Turi…” “That’ll be £12.50, mate.”
8. Kia Magentis
Even as a fully paid up car geek, I’m struggling to remember what the, err… what the Kia Magentis looks like. I’d make some quip about the interior but I can’t picture what that looks like either. So, here’s the thing, the Magentis is so anonymous you could be driven anywhere and be next to invisible. Best leave this one to D list celebrities who think people will want to shriek and squeal if they get spotted. Frazer Hines, wherever you’re pantoing this year, get yourself a Magenta. No, Magneto. No, Magnadoodle. No… Get yourself a big Kia.
7. Nissan QX
In the world of Taxi Top Trumps, this is The Daddy. V6 engine? Check. Easy to wipe down leather? Check. More electrical equipment than a branch of Currys in the January sales? Check. Driver likely to have suede patches on his cardigan elbows and a little vacuum cleaner to suck up any crumbs you might have dropped as soon as you’re out of the car? Check.
6. Rover 75
The Rover 75 was unveiled in 1998 as a classic, if slightly retro, interpretation of British luxury and good taste in a repmobile-sized package. Beautiful chrome detailing, exquisite application of wood and leather and an achingly elegant silhouette. And it all came to an inglorious end with that nasty 2004 facelift. How such a pig’s ear was made from the silk purse remains baffling. They may as well have launched a minicab edition when it was unveiled to draw attention to the new target market. Only the brave went for the beige interiors though – difficult to hide red wine vomit stainage even with a liberal dose of Vanish.
5. Fiat Doblo
I’m not talking about the newer Tim Burton meets Postman Pat Doblo, but the original model that was styled in the dark with a pen that was running out of ink. You wouldn’t want your neighbours seeing you climbing into it so best be quick and be ready to jump into that sliding door opening before he’s got chance to beep the horn to alert you of his presence. Of course, you could be doubly unlucky and it could be bright orange like this one…
4. Citroen Xsara Picasso
More likely found clattering up and down the streets of Chesterfield than the Champs-Élysées, the Picasso’s HDi motor will be getting revved to within an inch of its life. Thoughtfully, Citroen ensured the digital speedo was centrally mounted in retina-piercing green, conveniently illuminating the high-mounted gear lever with its split leatherette gaiter and throw so long it looks like the driver’s stirring a giant bowl of cake mix. Less handy are the individual rear seats which suck in all your loose change as you reach for a tenner to pay for the journey.
3. Ford Tourneo
Aah, the Tourneo. A sort of luxurious Transit minibus that’s fooling nobody. Look at those kidders on in the photo – you wouldn’t be smiling like that if you rocked up at a luxury hotel in a tarted up version of a builder’s van. Never been in one? Imagine a version of the faithful old Tranny had been given a makeover by DFS and you’re about there. Favourites for airport runs and hen parties that find stretched, pink Lincolns and Escalades too chavvy.
2. Peugeot 406
Since its launch in 1996, the 406 has been the de rigeur choice of professional minicabbers. The looks have aged well and the driver knows his steed is infinitely more elegant than the 407 that succeeded it. Inside, the dashboard plastics are robust enough to have the radio equipment, an after-market satnav, an iPhone cradle and a docking station for a Nokia 3210 all securely attached to it with size 8 Phillips screws. The driver’s content with his wheels and is consequently laid back. So laid back that his seat’s reclined to such an extent that the head rest is brushing the knees of the passenger behind. Yet, even from that anatomical incline he can still snick the gear stick from first to fifth after a few seconds of bouncing off the rev limiter. Jason Plato ought to be worried.
1. Skoda Superb
The Superb is the minicab passengers’ taxi of choice. The long wheelbase means you’re sat far enough back to legitimately claim not to have heard the barrage of questions from the driver about what sort of night you’ve had and the inevitable diesel engine is still refined enough to not sound like a pneumatic drill is about to grind its way into your skull. Catch one of these on a European airport run and you can revel in the novelty of the fold-down panel in the passenger seat so that it doubles as a foot rest. Just be careful not to clamber into one that isn’t a taxi – there are a few about. As minicabs go, this is Superb. See what I did there? I’ll get my coat…
What are the minicabs that you’ve got fond or foul memories of?