The 13 best cars for social distancing

By topgear, 07 May 2020

At the risk of oversimplifying and understating the situation, things are bad. And we have a long metaphorical road to travel before we’re clear of the current pandemic.  

Even when we emerge, blinking into the sunlight, we’re still going to have to practice social distancing for a good while yet. And that’s going to apply to travelling on non-metaphorical roads, too. So what’s a modern, social-distance-respecting driver to do?

Of course, there’s the obvious answer to this situation: a mahoosive off-roader or ruggedised van to escape to the wilderness until all of this has blown over.

But we think there’s a much better way. Actually, 13 better ways. Allow us to explain.

Mitsubishi Mirage
1. Mitsubishi Mirage

Oh my god, it’s a Mirage. It couldn’t be worse if it were sabotaged*.

And, before you think this is snark just because we’ve been looking at the same four walls for the past few weeks, let’s refer to the contemporary Top Gear UK's road test, from when life was mostly normal:

“It’s truly, profoundly terrible. The steering is slow and vague. It rolls extensively. Grip levels are non-existent. Every lump and ruffle in the road is transmitted directly to your backside. It’s inexcusably noisy. Hell, there’s so much slack in the steering that you can’t tell which way the wheels are pointing…”

And you will therefore never be asked to give anyone a lift. Now you see our genius.

*With apologies to the Beastie Boys.

BAC Mono
2. BAC Mono

What better way to practice social distancing on four wheels than eliminating all other seats but the driver's!

Okay, this one has no roof or windscreen either, meaning the regular N95 mask just won't do – it will get blown off your face. Instead, we'll see this as an opportunity to get into a Stig-like mood and don a proper full-face helmet. That ought to protect your face from germs, let alone the 250kph wind shear.

Who says you can't have fun doing this social distancing thing on four wheels? Just pray it doesn't rain though...

Mini EV X2
3. Mini EV X2

The internet has been abuzz with talks of this cheap EV from China that’s really just a blatant infringement of Mini’s intellectual property. Complete disregard of copyright laws aside, would you really trust something with no history or track record whatsoever to not burst into flames mid-way through your grocery run, or worse; while charging in your porch as you sleep?

Sure, RM13,800 may sound like a cheap gamble for those who view life as a perpetual discount, but even the Malaysian police has warned the public that the Mini EV X2 has all the makings of an online scam. Depositing your hard-earned cash into the shady bank account listed on the company’s website is a sure way of losing the respect of all your friends.

Even if it all turns out to be legit, good luck finding someone who’s willing to ride shotgun.

Image source:

Proton Tiara
4. Proton Tiara

You couldn't ask for a better car to socially distance with. For starters, spare parts for this rebadged Citroen AX are almost impossible to source now, so no point driving it to any workshops or garages open now as they'll shoo you away. You'd probably get the same at any wheel and tyre shop too for the simple fact that you don't have enough lug nuts for the shop to con you into buying.

Even if you still have one example in your possession that's still running, we'd still find it difficult that anyone would willingly jump at the idea of hitching a ride with you in your 'rare' Proton ' classic'.

In short, you'd be a master at social distancing with this social outcast of a car. Genius, no?

Image source: Two hundred percent via Wikipedia

TVR Tuscan
5. TVR Tuscan

Yes, the TVR has more than one seat. It also has more than one door. It’s a social distancing nightmare! But bear with us: because it’s a TVR, no one will know where the door handles are, and, should they find one by sheer chance, there’s a very large likelihood that the switch will be broken anyway.

So let the ‘handbuilt quality’ keep you safe and sound. As long as you keep the engine ticking over, you’ll be safe from breaking social distancing. But traction? That’s another matter.

A Popemobile
6. A Popemobile

What better car than one designed to keep a pontiff safe from anything the world can throw at him? It’s not like the Pope actually uses those things any more… doesn’t he have an old Renault 4 or something, because he actually heeded the Beatitudes?

Anywhos, what we’re saying is that there’s gotta be at least 20 ex-Popemobiles just waiting for this very specific purpose. Our pick? The Mercedes 230 G version – the first with the conservatory-style parapet out the back. Show the whole world how committed you are to staying the hell… er, heck (sorry, Your Holiness) away from them.

Proton Juara
7. Proton Juara

Yeah, at times like these, a multi-seat micro-van/MPV isn't ideal at staving off social encounters. But what about one that's bound to repel anyone wanting a ride simply for its, err... less than desirable looks?

Okay, it may have been a commercial flop like its Tiara hatchback cousin, but let's not forget that the Juara was probably too far ahead of its time. At least it still conformed to normal car bits like having enough wheel lug nuts, and there's ample amount of space to do your grocery shopping with. It was also rather decent to drive.

Moreover, we can't think of a better (read: cheaper) base if one desired to build a budget mini campervan and take social distancing efforts to the next level...

Image source: Two hundred percent via Wikipedia


Chana Era CM8
8. Chana Era CM8

Speaking of micro-van/MPVs, here's another example that's guaranteed to help keep your social distance too – perhaps more effectively than the Proton we mentioned earlier.

Once touted as the cheapest MPV on sale in Malaysia, this Chinese offering was hopeful in capturing a slice of the local market. Even with bargain basement pricing and practical ergonomics, many Malaysians just couldn't look past its hideously disproportionate styling, thus making it a failure.

The only thing it succeeded at, ironically, was staving people away from it entirely, thus making it perfect for four-wheeled social distancing. Another genius product well and truly ahead of its time? Maybe...

Image source: China Auto Web

Piaggio Ape
9. Piaggio Ape

Want to head out for sourdough starter and 4000-piece puzzles? Concerned about bringing potentially germ-covered items into your car’s cabin? Have a sense of humour (and style) that can be best described as ‘quirky’? Then step right up for the heroically uncrashworthy but otherwise indomitable Piaggio Ape, or that funny buzzy little thing you saw on holiday in Italy that time.

Inside, you’ll find a right pedal that operates… the rear brake, of course. You’ll also find motorcycle handlebars, including a right-hand lever for the independently operated front brake. Basically, we’re talking a motorbike with a cabin and a ute back. And the possibility of lifting a rear wheel in every corner. Just not if you want to keep your groceries in good nick.

Naza Sutera (aka Forza)
10. Naza Sutera (aka Forza)

Before you laugh at the Italian name bequeathed to the facelifted version of this peculiar hatchback, Pininfarina apparently did have a hand in its design. That said, we’ve yet to find any records explicitly crediting the design’s house creative team – this could very well be the work of Pininfarina’s finest accounting trainees.

Sold between 2006 and 2011, the car initially known as the Naza Sutera is in fact the first Malaysian adaptation of a Chinese car, well before the Proton X70 made it trendy. You’d be hard-pressed finding one for sale in the used car market simply because most of them have been abandoned or discarded entirely. 

You could get one for a couple grand if you’re (un)lucky, though. That should be a cheaper way of exiling yourself from society than a one-way ticket to Timbuktu.

Image source: Two hundred percent via Wikipedia

The Lunar Rover
11. The Lunar Rover

Specifically, if it’s one of the lunar rovers left on the moon after the later Apollo missions. With just the man on the moon to keep you company (and we’re reliably informed that pareidolic geographical features are not susceptible to viruses), you’ll have ample room to carve around in your buggy on perhaps the most off-road track achievable by man. Also, you’ll be in a hermetically sealed spacesuit! This plan has literally no downsides.

Chrysler PT Cruiser
12. Chrysler PT Cruiser

Is it low-hanging fruit to pick on the PT Cruiser, perhaps the worst car ever made? Yes. Would that fruit, in the case of the PT Cruiser, be unnaturally misshapen, of severely suspect quality and probably unfit for human consumption? Also yes.

Let's also not forget that this was probably one of the worse cars to have ever popped up in our local grey import (recond) cars market in recent years.

That said, buying a PT Cruiser is a charitable act, because you’re bailing out the last poor sod that owned one. And in times of crisis, charity becomes all the more important. Just imagine the distress caused by having to actually see the keys to a PT Cruiser sitting on your kitchen table and knowing you actually own one. The horror… the horror.

13. The simplest solution: a damn motorbike

Yeah, this one’s really been staring you in the face all along. If you’re doing the whole ‘All the gear, all the time’ thing that you really should be when on a motorbike, you’ll be covered from head to toe in heavy armour. Plus, unless you’re one of those riders who insists on riding a flat-tracker-knockoff SR400 in riding gear that would have looked period-correct in 1968, you’ll have a full-face helmet. Extra bonus: retractable sneeze guard!