Monday, April 15, 2013

My first UK car–which should I choose?

From my last post, I mentioned that I have driven in Florida since I was 16. Now that I’ve been carless for 2 years and 4 months, I’m almost ready to take on the British road system. This means I can’t just go grab a car that I like off the lot, I have to take a lot into consideration. Size, price, reliability, gas mileage, number of doors, insurance price, tax price, and whether or not I can actually drive the silly thing.

Steve and I have a theory about Vauxhall Corsas – driving instructors must choose the hardest car to drive, so that you can drive anything one you pass your test. I’m suspecting the car I first learned on was a diesel. You couldn’t do anything in second gear, heck you couldn’t even change the gears. (My first instructor had two of them, both made audible clunking sounds and I had to hold the gear stick just right, otherwise it would not go into 3rd for anything.) You also have to dance your feet all around, constantly just to keep the car still with the clutch control. Even the turn signals were rubbish and you had to constantly mess around with those to keep them on (one click full down to turn it on, one half click down to turn it off or something stupid like that.) The set up for the headlights were all over the dash too, not just on the windshield wiper and turn signal levers at the steering wheel like every other car. Even Jeremy Clarkson said, “Vauxhall has never made anything decent.” Now that I drive in a better car (with a better instructor) I’d never consider buying a Corsa.

I’m learning on a 2010 Honda Civic now. Before, I was convinced that I’d never be able to drive anything larger, different, ect. than the Corsa but man, was I wrong. Even on the first lesson, I could hold that car still at a traffic light way, way easier than the Vauxhall. There’s a lot of ease to the pedals, and the gears too that make this car a contender for me whenever we start looking to buy. Granted, I would get a used one because the new ones are pricey. The 2010s aren’t bad, but the 2006s are a bit ugly. Plus, the back of the car has that spoiler in the middle of the window, so it’s kind of hard to see out of the back of it. I like the big side mirrors though (unless they come dangerously close to parked cars.) It’s also a bit too big I think but I don’t want anything too small like all the other hatchbacks around here are.

I know he’s the most popular car in the UK, and they’re really reliable, practical, etc. but the Ford Focus does not evoke any kind of emotion other than, “Bleck,” with me. They’re everywhere, and reviews say they’re cheap to service and maintain (a big plus) as well as being able to get a decent one for under £6000 (a huge plus.) But my parents owned a Ford Taurus once that died in a horrible way right after they bought it used. I kind of don’t trust Fords now (terribly unAmerican, I know) but I may have to get one of these if I drive it and like it. I still say it looks masculine and is a bit too big. (And ugly, don’t forget ugly.)

I love these little Minis, it’s true. I mean, how can you not love a little face on a car like that? (Very girlie, I know.) I know they’re rated high and, heck, made for the type of driving I’ll be doing. For under £6000 I could get a decent one but I’d need to make sure it had air conditioning and low mileage and that may be a bit tricky. I’m thinking of just having my first car for a few years, so this isn’t a bad option (is it?) I mean, there’s only 2 doors and the hatchback. It sits close to the road so I’m not sure how safe it is (but heck, I’ve been in one that drove on 1-4 in Orlando and that’s insanity waiting to happen.) I just don’t know if I should go the practical route or enjoy my first little car that can zip around British streets (if I can, in fact, get it to zip up hills with my driving learning impairment.)

Of course, I’ve considered just going back to my roots with the tried and true Toyota. The Auris would be the modern version of my Corolla if they still made them in the UK. Sadly, Whatcar doesn’t rate them very high but Parkers gives them 4/5 stars. I can get a decent one for the same price as the ones above. I’ve not driven a manual Toyota here, but my past Toyotas ran without giving me any problems, so I may play it safe with this one. The Yaris looks like it may be a bit too small for us, but I could always try him out too.

I don’t know why I can’t fall in love with this Fiat Panda. He’s cute, the right size, and prices right with good reviews but I’m just not sure. We sat in one when we first looked at cars. It’s got a really neat set up inside too, but I’m way more about practicality than how the interior looks. There’s a lot of stuff going on inside, and the handbrake is an odd, boxy shaped thing. I’m not opposed to test driving one, but I’m still semi leery about buying a Fiat since I hear it’s been called a Fix It Again, Tony for so long.

I’ve researched used car sales, new car sales, Top Gear reviews and consumer reviews. I’ve looked at these top contenders up here as well as:

Nissan Note - is it too narrow in the cabin?

Hyundai i20 – drove a Hyundai in Florida during last vacation, but read that the gears are clunky on the manuals here, plus I’m not sure if this is too small either

Volkswagen Polo – price is the issue, especially price to maintain, and size compared to the Golf

Kia Soul – it is so stinking cute, but I think it’s too big for over here because it was taller than me, plus bad reviews.

So what so you think I should get? Are any of these a definite Yes or No?

Read part one of my car journey: History of My Automobiles’ Past


  1. The mini's are the cutest for sure but, I owned a Focus and it was a great car.
    Shawn at Laughing at Life 2