The garage finally called me today. The Toy didn't have a broken clutch or a damaged gearbox; it was a broken drive shaft. Cost to repair £400. He'll be ready tomorrow. I'll collect him on Saturday, which is the first chance I'll get.
In the meantime, I've driven to Site in a hire car, a Honda Civic. So far, I've done over 260 miles in it. On the one hand, it's not a model I've driven before, so I'm quite happy to give it a test drive; on the other, the designer seems to have swallowed some of the same rubbish that Renault feed their designers: all style and no function. Take a look at the rear end; can you see what I mean? (Pictures courtesy of Honda.)
See that spoiler, half way across the rear window? Not only does it put a thick band of (?) metal across the window cutting the view in two, it almost obscures the headlights of any vehicle behind you until, that is, said vehicle hits a bump in the road which creates the optical illusion that it is flashing you. Add to that the fact that the car doesn't have a rear wiper or washer, throw in a total inability to demist the lower half of the window (the top window has an electric demister) and the whole design of the hatch seams totally stupid.
(Interior shot of a left hand drive, automatic Civic.)
Another gripe (I have three, in total), is to do with the central console between the two front seats. Like most cars in Britain, this one has a manual gear box. The position of the gear lever is, probably, fine in an automatic (see above), but it is awkward for a manual driver. In addition, having the only cup holder directly in front of the gear lever is insane because you have to reach over your travel mug, holding your elbow at right angles, to avoid knocking the cup over (see below).
My final gripe is minor. I'm having problems coming to grips with the high beam on the headlights. It seams that on virtually every other car I have ever driven, you pull the indicator lever towards you to put on high beam and push it away from you if you just want to flash your headlights. In this car, it's the opposite. (In some older cars, you pushed a button on the floor with your toe.)
OK, so those are all the bad things. On the plus side, it handles well and is fairly nippy. On the motorway, it was a comfortable drive so long as I didn't have to change gear. It was easy to set up the mirrors, seat, etc, to suit me. It has good wing mirrors which made reverse parking at work easy. The interior is versatile, with the rear seats folding up as well as folding down flat to create a large rear space for transporting goods. The driver's seat can be raised or lowered using a pump-action lever at the side and it's something you can do while you are driving, when you discover you can't see the speedo because the steering wheel is in the way. The instrument display is clear and sensibly laid out. Visibility is good to the front and sides of the vehicle. It doesn't have a electronic demister for the front window but that window defrosted fairly quickly this morning in -2C.
Over all, I can't give it a higher score than 6 out of 10. If it was an automatic, I'd give it a 7.
(edited later to add: that rear window thing is REALLY ANNOYING!!! You can't see a damn thing out of it if it's raining and, of course, you can't clear off the rain drops because THERE IS NO WIPER!!! After driving in the rain this morning, the score just dropped to 5.)