Sunday, July 14, 2013

How Useful.

The name 'utilitaire' is used in French to denote any type of utility vehicle, like a van or station wagon or small enclosed truck. The term comes from the word 'utile', which means 'useful', a fitting name for this type of vehicle. Some of these utilitaires are purpose-built to be used for contractors and professionals and businesses: large boxy vans with large hinged doors in the back and usually one or more side sliding doors. These are similar to big Express and Econoline vans used in North America.

Europeans also have smaller classes of utilitaires, sometimes these are specifically built for work use, but other times they are based on regular passenger vehicles. One example that is now available in North America is the Ford Transit Connect. Most versions only have seats in the front, and the rear is a large unfinished cargo space. Family versions also exist with seats in the back and carpeting and trim, basically a regular car for everday use.

But some take it further. Not content with this 'midsize' class of utilitaires, many European automakers have for years been converting, well, just about anything into a cargo-hauling machine! One of my favourites is the Peugeot 205 Multi. The 205 is a legendary small Peugeot 2-door hatchback from the 1980s and 1990s, and the Multi was a tiny utilitaire spin-off of the regular car. It added a taller roof and squared off rear hatch area that significantly increased not only the shape but the usefuleness of the cargo area. Some might question the point of such a small 'work' vehicle, but in small European cities where parking space is at a premium and fuel prices are high, it often makes sense for small businesses to have a small utilitaire.
This one I stumbled across the other day has seen better days, but at least we can tell that it was properly used as a work vehicle throughout its life, as intended. No one will say that it's an attractive design, but when it comes to utilitaires, it's all about how it works, not how it looks.

Looks like my 'Cars I Want' list just got a bit longer...!


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