Chapter 4 – Ford Mondeo Zetec

There’s no lack of urge from the Dagenham-built 1.6-litre TDCi unit. There’s a small amount of diesel rumble at start-up but, for the most part, it is smooth and quiet on the move. Power tails off from around 3500rpm, which is when the engine’s clatter begins to drift into the cabin. Back off, or shift up and it regains its composure.

The ride and handling balance is perfectly judged. Over a variety of road surfaces and speeds, the Mondeo’s suspension soaked the worst of the bumps but still retained a huge amount of body control. Despite the basic architecture dating back to 2007, the steering is still among the class best. Some may find it a little light around the first few degrees of lock, but there’s a delicacy that’s hard to beat.

It’s easy to dismiss the Econetic model as a cost-conscious purchase, but the simple fact is that most buyers won’t need any more. As an everyday family car or motorway hack, the 113bhp unit is more than adequate. It feels relaxed at motorway pace, with plenty in its pocket for overtaking.

Standard equipment included in the Business Edition trim makes the Mondeo an easy companion. There’s pretty much all the kit most drivers really need. Leather trim might be nice, but after a six-hour drive, things can get a bit sticky. Plus it’ll hurt your benefit-in-kind rating.

Bloody hell……..she didn’t even see me, just pulled out….could have killed me…I slam my palm down on the horn…..but she’s gone, stupid woman driver.

Take a deep breath, inhale , exhale, it’s shaken me, that near miss. I see a lay bye, check the mirror, signal, manoeuvre. Pull up, open the window and take a deep another deep breath.

The sat nav senses an unscheduled halt

I have a little Sat-Nav
It sits there in my car
A Sat-Nav is a driver’s friend
It tells you where you are

I have a little Sat-Nav
I’ve had it all my life
It’s better than the normal ones
My Sat-Nav is my wife

It gives me full instructions
Especially how to drive
“It’s thirty miles an hour”, it says
“You’re doing thirty five”

It tells me when to stop and start
And when to use the brake
And tells me that it’s never ever
Safe to overtake

It tells me when a light is red
And when it goes to green
It seems to know instinctively
Just when to intervene

It lists the vehicles just in front
And all those to the rear
And taking this into account
It specifies my gear

I’m sure no other driver
Has so helpful a device
For when we leave and lock the car
It still gives its advice

It fills me up with counselling
Each journey’s pretty fraught
So why don’t I exchange it
And get a quieter sort?

Ah well, you see, it cleans the house,
Makes sure I’m properly fed,
It washes all my shirts and things
And – keeps me warm in bed!

Despite all these advantages
And my tendency to scoff,
I do wish that once in a while
I could turn the fuckin’ thing off.

” take the next left in 300 yards”

I nod, as if the bloody thing can see me

” in a minute, just taking a timeout”

It’s not the first time I’ve found myself talking to the sat nav. Spend enough time on the road, driving from appointment to appointment, radio burbling in the background and weirdness sets in. Singing along to hits from the 80s, shouting at that annoying bloke who does the football on five live, even finding yourself listening to depressing plays on Radio 4.

Calm restored, switch on ignition, check mirror, signal, manoeuvre and pull out, off on the road again.

“Take the next left in 250 yards”

When I got the sat nav, I played around with the voice, thought it would be funny, ironic even to have a woman’s voice telling me what to do, reflection on my life to date, ha bloody ha.

I settled on the Australian accent, reminded me of Kylie, her of the perfect pert butt, quite liked the idea of HER telling me what to do.

“Take the next left in 150 yards”

Need to concentrate now, start looking, don’t want to miss my turning, be late for the appointment, start a sales pitch wrong footed.

“Take the next left in 50 yards”

I start looking properly , expecting a road sign, a signal that the turn is coming up, but nothing, the road is deserted, dead straight, leafless trees, bare fields, moth eaten hedgerows. No sign of life and no sign of a sign.

“Turn left now”

I brake, hard, there is nowhere to turn, not even a gateway, a farm track, a bridleway, nothing.

I drive on, sat navs, they’re all well and good, but they screw up, send you up dead ends, over harbour walls, into disused tunnels.

“Turn around when it is safe to do so”

I ignore it , wait for the pixies or whatever actually powers it, to re figure, reroute, send me onwards.

“Turn around when it is safe to do so”

I keep driving, the voice becomes more insistent

“Turn around when it is safe to do so”

And then it almost shouts

“Turn around now”

I’ve never heard this tone before, usually miss sat nav has an upbeat and almost chirpy soap opera accent, with that distinctive up at the end of each sentence as if every direction is offered for discussion, but this tone is cold, abrupt and if I’m being honest, it’s actually getting a bit spooky. The deserted road, the grey winter sky , the lack of anything except me, the car and miss sat nav is all beginning to feel a bit Hammer Horror.

And then she does shout

“Turn around”

And I can’t help myself, I hit the brakes, perform a messy u-turn and head back the way I came. I didn’t mean to and I can’t explain why, but I’m obeying the voice because I’m not quite sure what will happen if I don’t.

The sat nav purrs at me, I can almost hear the satisfaction in her voice

” Turn right in 400 yards”

I don’t really know what I’m expecting to happen, something magical maybe, perhaps my sat nav has discovered her own equivalent of Harry Potters’ platform 9 and a quarter, perhaps there will be a turning now and the journey can resume and everything can get back to what passes for normal and I can start thinking about how to convince my next lead that he [ or maybe even she] needs to install a new point of sales unit to improve their chocolate sales at the point of payment

A point-of-sale display (POS) is a specialized form of sales promotion that is found near, on, or next to a checkout counter (the “point of sale”). They are intended to draw the customers’ attention to products, which may be new products, or on special offer, and are also used to promote special events, e.g. seasonal or holiday-time sales. POS displays can include shelf edging, dummy packs, display packs, display stands, mobiles, posters, and banners. POS can also refer to systems used to record transactions between the customer and the commerce.[1]

“Turn right in 200 yards”

She sounds satisfied, a woman who has got her way, I know it sounds weird, almost mad, but I swear that I can hear a smile in her voice.

“Prepare to turn right”

And god knows why, but I even indicate, although I haven’t seen a single car for at least 15 minutes and there’s nothing there, not even a gap in the hedge, nothing…….

A muddy verge, bare ground, nothing.

I scan the horizon, miles and miles away, a bright green tractor is doing something rural, mysterious, moving up and down a field. It’s so far away I feel as if I’m looking at toy,I wonder idly if I had one as a kid, can’t remember but for a second I remember clear as day the garage with the winch to move cars up and down, I can almost see it in front of me……weird what your mind dregs up, more strangeness on a day that is already going to the odd.

I turn off the engine and because I don’t know what to do, I step out of the car, step straight into the mud and stare into the distance and wonder why the sat nav is so keen to bring me here and then i catch myself…. I’m sounding as if the sat nav, the ever perky Kylie has got a mind of her own, a plan, an agenda that she hasn’t shared with me.

“Ghosts in the machine” I mumble and then go and have a dig about in the glove compartment where I’m sure there’s an old road atlas.

As anyone who has been sent down winding country lanes, directed wildly off course or had the phrase “recalculating”bellowed at them from the dashboard will tell you – sat navs can be a nightmare.

Their temporary blips and habit of sending you on the most illogical rout possible can drive even the most level-headed driver to despair. Unsurprisingly, a poll taken in October last year found 60% of motorists have shouted, sworn or even lashed out at their sat nav after it sent them the wrong way. The survey, commissioned by sat nav app developer Skobbler, found unclear directions and annoying voice-overs regularly tested drivers’ patience.

But most frustrating, and dangerous, of all, is their tendency to misdirect drivers with out-of-date maps and routes. The result has been misdirected lorries becoming wedged in narrow streets, HGVs being directed through crematoriums, and ambulance services being sent the wrong way. The Government intends to tackle this problem at a summit in March.

Hosted by Transport Minister Norman Baker, the summit will thrash out the quandaries posed by the devices. Mr Baker also seeks to encourage highway authorities, mapping providers and sat nav manufacturers to work more closely to ensure the right vehicles are on the right roads.

But while few would dispute the need to update sat navs and ensure they are sending drivers on the safest routes possible, the news brings into focus wider problems in relation to the device.

About cathi rae

50ish teacher & aspiring writer and parent of a stroppy teenager and carer for a confused bedlington terrier and a small selection of horses who fail to shar emy dressage ambitions. Interested in contemporary fiction but find myself returning to PG Wodehouse when the chips are down View all posts by cathi rae

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