Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Car Chase Pt1

Thanks to stints at Evo and Autocar in quick succession it’s been a while since I last had a chance to blog on my search for a new car. Well, that’s all about to change…

The process that saw me arrive at this ubiquitous junior-repmobile was, predictably, a somewhat tangled one. When I last wrote about it there were a string of contenders besides the Focus, including the Ford Puma, the Ford Fiesta Zetec S, the Citroen Xsara, the Alfa Romeo 156 and its smaller brother the 147.

I came very close to buying a Puma. I scoured the local area and eventually found a good one, got an idea of price and then decided to sleep on it. This decision turned out to be (potentially) fortunate as I got a phone call from the insurance company telling me to hold off purchasing another car the following morning. It turned out the vehicle they’d originally said was a confirmed write off, might not be. I’d have to wait and see.

In the intervening time, something caught my eye. Something red and Italian – an Alfa Romeo 156 2.4 JTDm Sportwagon to be precise. It’s a vehicle that I’ve mentioned before: a front wheel drive diesel estate car that somehow manages to be genuinely desirable.

The first one I had hoped to see appeared to be going at a bargain price. Unfortunately, as is all too often the case, it was found to be, quite literally, to be too good to be true. A friend in the trade had spotted the same car at auction with crash damage a few months before and this blew the dealer’s assertion that it was pristine and 100% original clear out of the water.

Still, my next move was a virtually identical 156 Sportwagon. This car was a relatively well looked after and mechanically sound example owned by a chap on Pistonheads. It drove beautifully, but - cosmetically - it looked every one of its 90,000 miles and rather more than just four years old.

Something was missing too. Inside it just didn’t feel special enough to live up to the mystique. It was nearly twice the price of something like a low mileage Focus or 306, yet it felt pretty much as utilitarian. What’s more, this one wasn’t even red. I reluctantly decided to look elsewhere.

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