Small but not to be trifled with -- like its owner
An attempted robbery of his partner's beloved Nissan Micra sent Campbell Spray in search of a suitable car that would meet both their expectations
I suppose the end for the 2000 Nissan Micra began late at night in an almost deserted underground car park near my partner's work.
Returning after her shift, at nearly midnight, she found that somebody had tried to lever the driver's side door of her beloved red Micra and the top was now a good foot from the body.
Damage to a car was one thing, the damage that could have been inflicted on a small, blonde woman at that time of night if she had faced the attacker or attackers was another thing entirely. But luckily, he or they had fled and the car was driveable. The next day, visits to repair shops involved much sucking of teeth and shaking of heads.
"The insurers will probably scrap it," intoned one. "Well, we can try and push it back but it might crack in two," another explained. In the end, it didn't, but the Micra was left with a very dodgy door that just about closed but equally didn't make the car an appealing purchase. The car's days were beginning to look numbered and I started whispering "scrappage" in Gayle's ear.
An overdue date with the NCT people and an expensive upcoming service and preparation for the test slightly sugared the message. But having just moved into our new home before Christmas, the thought of paying for a new car was less than appealing.
Since being purchased second hand in 2003, for around €7,250, the Micra had been a good servant. Even in the ice and snow which had brought the country to a halt after Christmas it had gone where big rear-wheel-drive BMWs had feared to tread. Up until its last year, service costs were minimal, yet now the balance had changed. What was necessary to keep the car going in a reliable fashion was increasing all the time.
After a quick tot of available resources, it was decided that a replacement car was needed and a number of visits to used-car dealers confirmed that, to meet our basic criteria, €7,000-€8,000 would have to ponied up.
Then I realised that this was very silly and for a change we should do as I say. Gayle should put her money where my mouth is. Since the new year, I have been advising readers on the scrappage scheme and especially the excellent bargains on offer at the bottom end of the market.
For not much more than that €8,000 you could get a car that was brand new, well-specced with a three-year warranty. Manufacturers were falling over themselves to give extra bonuses above the €1,500 from the Government to put people, with a car aged 10 or older, into their new vehicles. Fiat, Nissan, Hyundai and Kia were among those offering the biggest discounts and, for the most part, they had cars you would be happy to be seen in. The more mainline brands of Ford, Toyota and VW couldn't be ignored either. However, when I was suggesting different cars for Gayle to consider, one test from the past couple of years kept coming back to my mind.
It was the Hyundai i10, very much a small car but because of its height and packaging, it feels much bigger. In fact, I had seen it pull up at one of our main tourist attractions and five hulking Americans get out of one.
It has a gutsy engine, great emissions and consumption figures which put it into the €104 road tax band, and a good feeling of quality about its build. It also has excellent adaptable luggage space. In other European markets -- including Britain -- where there has been a scrappage scheme, the i10 has reigned supreme.
With the €1,500 government scrappage scheme and an extra €2,000 bonus from Hyundai, the price of the i10 came tumbling down from €11,995 to a manageable €8,495. Unfortunately, there was no escaping the dreaded "delivery" charge of €500 or the same for metallic paint. However, at the end, for about the equivalent of what she had spent seven years ago on a used car, Gayle could have a new car with a three-year warranty and AA cover, minimal costs and a great level of spec including remote central locking, electric mirrors and windows all round, alarm, alloys, front fogs and masses of storage spaces.
I showed her a range of alternatives, including the Ford Ka, one or two Fiats, the Kia Picanto and Toyota Aygo. However, having seen and driven the Hyundai, she was smitten and, once she has decided on something, this is a woman not to be trifled with.
There were no strings pulled, no discounts asked for or given but within five days of seeing the car in Hyundai's dealership of Fairview Motors on Dublin's northside, the oyster grey i10 was nestling in our garage.
At the last minute, I saw that Renault was offering a Clio for under €9,000. However, when I phoned a local dealer, he said that he wouldn't be able to get one at that price for seven months.
Gayle is delighted with the i10. I would have been happier if Hyundai were offering the air-conditioning and five-year warranty that is standard with the car in Britain. But then, I'm never satisfied.
The scrappage scheme has reinvigorated the car industry and manufacturers have responded well to it by offering their own deals on top of the €1,500. They are happy.
And if one particular new customer is happy, then I am as well.