Finding the right next car is a nightmare that never gets any easier. It has made me sit back and reassess things.
I live a frugal life on a frugal income. Many sacrifices have been made. We can’t have children, because we can’t afford them, though to be honest, we like our sleep too much and have enough trouble just looking after a cat, so there are other factors at work. Cost is something you need to consider though. The average cost of raising a child is said to be enough to buy a brand new Aston Martin. Food for thought isn’t it?
As it happens, I can’t afford an Aston Martin either, but I still desperately seek new automotive thrills. Cheap cars are a great way to experiment. Without spending too much money, I’ve learnt that Daihatsus are fun but uncomfortable, Saabs are a bit dull but capable, Alfa Romeos are not the nightmare you might expect, Land Rovers are rusty but worthy, Rover 75s are not as comfortable as my back would like, Citroen BXs have frustrating wipers and clutches, Volkswagen Golfs are as exciting as breeze blocks, Ford Mavericks are bouncy but fun and Honda Civics of 1991 are surprisingly good. All of these cars cost less than £1000 to buy, and most didn’t cost too much to own.
I tend to flit between ‘fun’ and ‘sensible.’ Something inappropriate is inevitably replaced by something so dull that I get bored of it very quickly. Finding the happy medium is nigh on impossible. So much so that even the thought of owning a BMW has crossed my mind. The biggest battle is usually between petrol or manual. The desire for economy versus the desire for an engine with a bit of soul about it. Take the Alfa Romeo 156 for example. I’ve already admitted that I love the shape. A four-cylinder petrol seems a bit uninteresting though, while the V6 can be both expensive to fuel and fix. Perhaps the ideal halfway house is the 2.4JTD then, which uses a five-cylinder diesel engine.
Here we have a diesel that actually sounds great. I love five-pot engines, from my old Audi 100 to my neighbour’s Land Rover Discovery II and the Volkswagen Crafter minibus I often drive. They growl in a rather pleasing manner, sounding slightly off-beat due to the five-cylinders partaking in a four-stroke cycle. They take you right back to the excitement of Group B rallying, when five-pot Audis screamed around rally stages in a proper, spine-tingling manner. Check this out!
It’s a magical noise. Naturally, road cars are a bit quieter than that, and diesels aren’t going to match the insane revs, but they still sound muscular and exciting.
Which is an odd thing to say when you think about it. My wife doesn’t understand what I’m on about at all. To her, the three-pot Daihatsu is no more interesting than a four-pot one. To me, it’s the essential difference.
Yet, other than when accelerating hard, there’s little chance to hear a musical engine over a bland one. Cruising at motorway speeds, you might as well have electric power. Am I wrong to insist on three, five or six cylinders when actually four would do very nicely most of the time? I blame the mental scars of Rover P6 ownership. I’ve owned a V8, which was marvellous, and a four-cylinder 2000, which was an extreme case of bland.
This is all before we get down to the importance of wipers. Recent Facebook comments on my blog posts suggest I’m alone in being quite so OCD about windscreen wipers. I don’t care. I’ve always been fascinated by them and ‘poor’ wiper layouts drive me mad.
Anyway, I’ve digressed quite a bit. There is no conclusion as yet. Buying a car is always emotive, never more so than when an Alfa Romeo is considered. Could a 156 2.4JTD be the perfect car?