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{15/04/2012}   Buying a new car

Today a friend and I spent about five hours looking at cars. I test drove a Peugeot 308cc (steel top convertable) and a Mini Clubman Cooper. I was unable to test drive a BMW 118i, a 2008 Mercedes CLC Kompressor and a 1.4 Golf Match TSI. Believe it or not, there was logic to my choices. I ruled out a Toyota Auris that was also on my list. I drove home with my 11 year old BMW 325 ti, thoroughly exhausted and confused!

I want a car that’s got a decent boot (that Peugeot was never a practical option!), costs less to insure and run than my current car (which will also need a bit of work this year, hence my decision to get a new or at least newer car) and which isn’t too much of a downscaling in terms of performance. I don’t want automatic again (the CLC is automatic but with paddle gears) and I want petrol. I also want minimal pimping/electrics, though that is by far the most challenging criterion.

My first car was an Austin Allegro, which, surprisingly, I loved. It was very nippy in low gears and the heating kicked in almost immediately. Then I had a 1.2 Corsa (distressingly low powered), then a mark two 1.3 (?) Golf and finally a mark three 1.4 Golf and a 600cc Yamaha Fazer motorbike (more exciting than any of my cars). I like cars but everything I could vaguely afford is a long way from being an ideal car! I desperately want to get into a, say, Kia and think wow. But it would appear I have become accustomed to German build quality so I would rather have a German car with lower spec than, say, a Korean car.

I am not entirely sure why I am even considering buying a new car, but I am now fully conversant in a variety of different financing options and special offers. However, I have learned a fair bit today. The car salesmen, and one woman, I have met were, bar one, far nicer and less pushy than I expected. The VW man just seemed far too bored and too keen to get me to buy a 1.4 Golf with its cashback and c4.9% finance package. There is a big difference in customer service and showroom standards between dealers. BMW were my favourites. The salesman there offered me the chance to take the car I was interested in home and use it for 24 hours under their insurance. At Mini we got nice drinks and good toilet facilities and at Mercedes and BMW the reception staff were very helpful.

In terms of the cars we looked at, my 6’2″ car adviser/friend had his head bashed by the Peugeot’s roof being put up and then couldn’t sit upright in the back with the roof up. He fitted in the Mini easily, and likewise all other cars. Surprisingly, he liked the Mini Clubman best, declared the Golf we looked at was “bland”, the Auris “bleeeuuughh” and the non-convertable Peugeot (308) “like a mini cab”. Plus the seat broke while the salesman was demonstrating how much space there was with the back seats down.

Now I am at home, I am writing this as escape from getting bogged down in insurance quotes (new cars far cheaper than my old but, in insurance terms, “high performance” car) and fuel consumption statistics, etc. This is all quite distressing but I am poised to dive into the murky waters of car loans, ie buying above my means, something I have never done. It’s all just a bit too grown up for my liking! Plus they keep boasting about all the bits and pieces when all I really want is a fully manual car with hand-wind windows and a real key. I had to ask the test drive person how to stop the engine of the Mini Cooper Clubman. It was a button. A button? And on pressing the “off” button a flying saucer type “key” emerged from a slot. And how am I supposed to know if I want 18″ light alloy wheels cirrus, stratus or nimbus (isn’t that THE broomstick for quidditch?!), a kidney grille, Eco Pro, media package, salt pack, tiptronic, telematics generation NTG 2.5, supertooth one, BlueMotion technology …

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