The first car I bought was a red 1990 BMW E30 318is for £1800. It had done 170,000 miles, was a little scruffy round the edges and the sills had seen better days. Call it rose tinted glasses but I loved that car; retro 80s styling, perfect front-engine rear-wheel-drive layout and being utterly simplistic made it a joy to work on.
When I bought the ‘is’ it was about 20 years old and this got me thinking, what will the next generation of car enthusiasts be buying as their first cars in 2035?
Earlier this year Audi released details of its 362bhp, 465Nm RS3. That’s a hatchback with nearly 400bhp, you would need to buy a Ferrari for similar power just 10 years ago. The Audi is £40k brand new but what would it be worth after 20 years of depreciation and 170,000 miles on the clock? It isn’t just the prestigious German marques that are spoiling the next generation either. The humble Vauxhall Corsa (albeit in VXR form) packs more than 200bhp and can be bought for less than £18k new.
Forced induction is the source of this boost (pun intended) in power levels found across the industry and particularly in the latest generation of driver-focussed cars. The automotive world is being driven towards reduced CO2 emissions and improved fuel economy, the (relatively) easy way of doing this is to reduce cylinder count and add your preferred choice of a turbo or supercharger, or in some cases both.
So the next generation can look forward to some high powered yet frugal, reliable second hand vehicles that can be picked up for relatively small sums of cash, right? Well yes, probably, but at what cost? In order to get these impressive figures the engines are now incredibly complex, so much so that DIY servicing will not just be frowned upon but may become an extinct art among the younger generation.
I was lucky enough to be able to afford to run my E30; insurance was relatively cheap considering I was a youth in a BMW, and I carried out the majority of maintenance and servicing myself. I fear, however, that in 20 years-time insurance companies will not take kindly to youths in a 200bhp Corsa that doesn’t drive itself (assuming we are all driving autonomous vehicles by then). Add in the cost of dealer or independent garages’ labour rates for changing a light bulb and running any form of ‘performance’ car could be out of reach for most young people.