Choosing the ideal car

The task of choosing a new car has become a painstaking journey. Take, for example, two friends of mine who were looking to buy a new automobile.

On one side was their yearning for a prestigious, resounding brand and lots of advanced features and options. On the other were the banks, neighbours, kids and the financial crisis, just around the corner.

They first decided to go with a BMW, mostly at his whim. A sporty brand, a car that makes you feel like a man, he said while drooling over performance tests for the Germans’ latest creations. Surprisingly, his wife didn’t complain at all, but they soon realised that advertised prices include no features at all. Sadly, the money they thought were going to buy them a BMW sufficed only for some wheels, a few lights and a couple of nicely colored badges.

Then, he found out that all-wheel drive can turn a car into a real best that’s able to offer comfort during the winter as well. And since they have a 5-6 months long winter... The starting price for all-wheel drive and a few additional features beyond the standard level was way over 50,000 Euro. Quite a lot, but it was a BMW after all, so they chose an „all-inclusive” 3 Series with all-wheel drive.

But, as if on cue, news about careless BMW drivers on a crash spree started to flood TV stations. After a week of media mayhem, my friend wasn’t so convinced anymore about the BMW’s ability to offer the much needed comform, while she was frowning and quite upset. Not only that, but their neighbours seemed to be taking turns at pointing out how people who buy BMWs are worthless and do it only to generate amazement while driving on the streets of their quiet little town and, thus, are nothing short of a public menace.

And so, between two beers and a pizza, they agreed a safer option was in order, for their public image and personal health both. A car able to protect them, should one of the aforementioned lunatics got into his mind to do some monkey business on the same streets they used during their peaceful weekend strolls.

The logical answer? An SUV. And if it’s got to be safe, a Volvo or Mercedes is certainly what you would go for. The XC90 and ML were already going head-to-head in their mind in terms of price, features, options and strong points. I was told the Volvo got eliminated early on, when he found out it was considered an old car and, what’s more, the brand was acquired by the Chinese at Geely. They explained how they love Chinese food and therefore are not racist, but had decided to keep the EU-China cultural exchange at that level. Therefore, the ML was in the lead and worthy opponents were nowhere to be seen.

But just as they were gushing over how safe their car was going to be and how pleasureable their weekend roadtrips, the coffee shop’s windows were shattered by a rock and a commotion started in the street between „peaceful” manifestants and law enforcement officers.

„It’s just a protest against pollution”, we were told. But on some of the signs, one could read things along the lines of „death to SUVs”, while the two unfortunate offroad vehicles that happened to be around were painted on and „politely” keyed by the „peaceful” manifestants.

I couldn’t supress a burst of noisy laughter while I was thinking how difficult it is to pick a car these days. Of course, the ML was promptly axed, and my friends started looking again for a car that doesn’t annoy the neighbours, doesn’t seem opulent, doesn’t cost as much as a house, does offer a lot of features, is not singled out by ecology activists and, if possible, has... all-wheel drive?! Or maybe not, judging by recent events.

A few monts passed until we met again. They recounted how their search went in the meantime. They first went for an Italian car which he saw as gorgeous but was considered red, firey and stupid by her. Both agreed it was impractical and cramped. Then they went through the hybrid fever and tested a Prius she claimed was impossible to drive in a crowded city due to its reduced visibility features, not to mention the gearbox which both said was plain dumb. Next was a Honda which, although presumably a hybird, had a fuel consumption higher than a diesel and, again, had a confined interior.

And yet others fell behind, like the Porsche he had his eyes on at a time when he was daydreaming about his business was not being affected by the financial crisis anymore, or the Ferrari promptly dismissed by her on grounds of it being just a fast cart that eats up fuel like a truck and is completely impractical.

A Lambo was out of the question, although both admired it in pictures, because it’s not a day to day car. French brands were out of reach and had to stay that way because they were... french, and they had forsaken the very unhealthy french fries long before.

When we left the meeting place, they offered to give me a ride in their.. car?! „What car?”, I asked, since I assumed the new automobile business was dead and buried by now.

„We bought a Dacia Duster”, they explained with unease. It’s small, she said tentatively, and has a sort of all-wheel drive, he said while starting down at his own shoes. It has a good mileage, she continued, and... it’s just until we find something „proper”, he finished, happy to get away with an otherwise embarassing situation, considering what options had been considered up until that point, at least in terms of price, if not build quality.

„Ok, but... options, comfort, safety? And is it not an... SUV?”, I asked, still dazed by their decision.

He cleared his throat matter-of-factly and replied that it’s a crossover, has an Euro 5 engine and that safety tests showed how, even if it didn’t get five stars, it’s still a good car. Then he winked at me and explained that such a cheap Romanian-made car would never get a full five stars rating and that he knew how these tests were
really biased.

Then she added how they prefered to spend all the spare funds on a few exotic trips, on redecorating their apartment and, what’s more, on establishing a savings account for their kids. The discussion broke off at this point as they had to... get to the kindergarden.

I hopped in a cab and headed home, smiling, through a city filled to the brim with cars of all kinds and colors that were jammed in traffic so heavy it can’t be handled by any contemporary highway.

The perfect car? For me, that evening, it was a yellow one!
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