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Are you a car badge snob?

Is it really worth forking out all that extra cash for the latest numberplate or a superior brand? Motoring journalist Tim Barnes-Clay thinks not.

On 1 March the 14 registration plates are available for new cars, and there's also the new 64 plate in September.

Many of us secretly hanker for the latest gleaming plate because we like to show we’re driving what's up-to-the-minute in terms of automotive technology and style.

But, in my opinion, we should try and steer well clear of badge snobbery.

Why are we such snobs?

What exactly is this kind of superficial behaviour all about, though?

Personally, I think it’s usually exhibited by people who haven’t got a clue about cars.

They splash out on the biggest engine size and most expensive model in the line-up just so everyone at the country club knows that they’re minted.

But in reality, I bet half the people at that club couldn’t give a fig about their fellow members’ motors.

And for those of us in the know, we’ve cottoned on to the fact that you can pay a lot more for a virtually identical car these days.

It’s what’s on the inside that counts

It’s just a case of a different emblem stuck on the grille or boot lid and maybe a slight difference inside the cabin.

Take the new SEAT Leon for example (pictured left).

It’s a bona fide member of the Volkswagen Group, and it’s made up of the same bits and pieces that go into the Audi A3, VW Golf and Skoda Octavia.

It just doesn’t have, say, the four silver rings the perceived upmarket Audi has.

Indeed, you could argue that SEAT generally has better style than its pricier VW Group cousins.

Could snobbery be justified?

The fresh Leon is an all-rounder and is undoubtedly the most handsome of the gang thanks to its razor-sharp looks.

To contradict myself for a moment, badge snobbery could possibly be defensible if the gap between SEAT and Skoda in the 2013 Driver Power customer satisfaction survey was anything to go by.

Even though they share the vast majority of their parts, SEAT dropped down to 27th out of 32, with Skoda climbing up to number two.

Lack of reliability is one of reasons given for the below-par score.

But rationally, all those mutual motorised parts mean the latest Leon will probably prove to be just as trustworthy as its brethren in the long run.

‘Better value for money’

Seeing the Leon is up to 10% cheaper than the Golf and you get all the hottest accessories and equipment, you’d be hard pressed to argue it isn’t brilliant value for money.

If you're happy to say "Yes" to an interior that's indisputably less notable than the Golf's, the Leon offers much of the same for significantly less wedge.

The entry-level 1.2 TSI SE five door petrol, for example, costs £15,850.

This is £1,580 less than the equivalent five-door VW Golf, which has an on-the-road price of £17,430.

Picking a car that makes us feel good

Still, I guess it isn’t always about getting the biggest bang for your buck, as Ian Donaldson, chairman of the Midland Group of Motoring Writers (MGMW), sums up.

"Thank goodness, from the car manufacturers' point of view, that we buy the car we want, not the one we need," he says. "That would have us all driving something cheap and simple.

"Instead, most of us go for something that makes us feel good. And don't the car makers know it."

Donaldson adds: "It's the same with everything, from the brand of lager you drink to the label on your jeans."

What do you think?

Is there such a thing as badge snobbery? Would you fork out extra cash for a superior brand?

We want to hear from you! You can share your views on our message board below.


Tim Barnes-Clay

Leon Poultney

Tim is an experienced motoring writer with a background in radio and TV journalism. He puts his pedal to the metal each week with his must-read car reviews.

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