Monday 17 June 2019

Think big and dare to dream

Hang back from making a new car purchase this year until you work out what you want, writes Campbell Spray

X-RATED: The all-new BMW X2 has the drive position of a saloon but the look of a SUV
X-RATED: The all-new BMW X2 has the drive position of a saloon but the look of a SUV

Over the last few weeks I divided my time between two cars that couldn't have been more different and, predictably, the reactions I got were more to the car than the person.

For a bit of prestige I was testing the rather sporty looking BMW X2, which is very fine to drive and look at. It also has the kind of interior that reeks of money. It tries to have SUV characteristics while still having a relatively low-slung seating position. For many it will fall between two stalls - the more practical and I think slightly bigger X1 and the new 3 Series saloon and estate that arrives at the beginning of March.

Many of my colleagues were rather dismissive of it when I told them what I was driving over the Christmas period, but I was sorry to see it go. I even did the maths to see if we could afford one but was quickly told to be practical, although I sneaked a look at the January Sale at Frank Keane and saw that an ex-demo 2018 registered X2 x drive Sport had been reduced by €15,911 to €41,950 from an eye-watering pre-sale price of €57,861.

That was considerably more than the 1.8-diesel M Sport version I was driving which started at €48,900 but by the time options like the rather lovely Misano Blue metallic paint went on outside and the Oyster grey Dakota leather (with perforation!) went on the seats and a sports automatic box linked the transmission we were going north of €53.5k. Even by emptying all my piggy banks and taking them down to the free automatic counter at my local Ulster Bank branch, we couldn't stretch to that.

So it was nice to have my partner's now seven-year-old Hyundai i10 to rely on, especially when we wanted to be a bit more inconspicuous or need to squeeze into the tightest of parking spaces. I have always believed that my rather West-Brit accent helps to see me overcharged by 20pc and being in a brand-new Beemer or Merc that doubles. When stepping out of the i10, people consider me rather normal and smile that bit more. It's worth a lot.

Of course we think a lot about replacing the little car but when you have such a good runabout that has never let us down and is splendidly economical, the decision is made to hold off for that bit longer.

The little Hyundai also squeezes nicely into the corner of the garage so I can get some of the monsters I occasionally test-drive in as well. However, I am very alive to my partner's pleading for a small SUV which will stop the bullying of her little blue car.

I am also very conscious of how fast the whole car market is changing and that anything you buy now - especially diesel - could be looking very dated by the middle of the next decade. Even certain electric cars could have that early-adopter hue fading quite soon if they don't have the range of cars like the Hyundai Kona and Jaguar and Tesla models. The all-electric Kia Niro should be one to watch, too.

However, the announcement that Volkswagen is diverting massive resources into its electric fleet and having a charging network could point to the way the future might be shaping up.

The German behemoth has already announced that there won't be any more internal combustion engines launched after 2026.

My advice, for what it is worth, is to hang back from making a new car purchase this year until you really work out what you want and whether it would be better to wait until the way forward is that bit clearer. Alternatively, it might be the time to treat yourself to something rather exotic that you have always promised you would buy some day. That could be a Mini, Porsche or massive off-roader. Don't let the opportunity pass you by.

An Aston Martin DB7 would be my choice, although I would love to have my 20s back again and the wonderful Saabs that began to enter my life.

Sunday Independent

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