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Car Buyers' Guide: Stand out from the crowd
By Jack Biddle • 18/05/2014
Mike is on a limited budget and knows he should stick to the more mainstream and trusted Japanese brands when it comes time to replace his car, but he wants something quirky.
"I refuse to spend huge amounts of money on any vehicle. My previous car was an old 1998 Saab 9000 which everyone told me to get rid of years ago. I paid $4000 initially, owned it for six years, had no major mechanical problems and with an odometer showing 230,000km sold it for $500," says Mike.
He is now on the lookout for something that stands out from the crowd a little, but because he is carrying a bit of extra gear around these days it needs to have some level of practicality as well. Eyes at the moment are centred on a Chrysler PT Cruiser.
I can't argue with your logic, Mike, but I suspect there has been an element of luck or some DIY repairs with the Saab during ownership that have kept your running costs so low.
There's nothing wrong with moving away from the mainstream brands but it does pay to be careful in your selection, especially in this price bracket. I suggest you take into consideration the availability and potential cost of spare parts, plus the technical expertise out in the field to service and repair a particular oddball make and model.
Genuine parts for some are often not carried on the shelf by the franchise holder and can take some time to source and arrive in NZ.
Checking the availability of used parts from an auto dismantler or an outlet which specialises in providing aftermarket options are also always good back-up options for the non-mainstream brands.
The budget: $6500
Chrysler PT Cruiser (2003)
The car has its definite downsides but overall it's not a bad choice. They certainly have a unique character, shape and style and are much under-rated in terms of interior space. The back seat, for example, can be removed quickly to provide additional room. Downside is the performance, especially from the 2-litre engine (2.4l is better).
Long spells on the open motorway could become frustrating with a lack of overall zip, plus fuel consumption could also suffer if trying to keep momentum up over demanding terrain.
Toyota bB (2004)
It's like having a bet each way with this option. Yes, it carries a mainstream badge but it also stands out from the crowd and has that reputation for reliability. Originally produced to create some excitement among the younger generation in Japan, it is a practical vehicle with lots of usable interior space. It has proved popular among some tradies in NZ for this reason.
Engine sizes can vary between 1.3l and 1.5l, with the larger output preferred. Also, look at the Daihatsu Materia as it comes from the same family and was sold new in NZ.
Peugeot 307 (2003)
It's European, which obviously won't deter you after the Saab experience. I would suggest you lessen the risk and increase the driving enjoyment, however, and look for a manual transmission option.
No doubt, it's the better choice on the open road but less extreme in terms of outward appearances. Interior space is nowhere near as generous as other possibilities as well.
Sounds like you're a risk taker Mike, but don't discard a cautious approach entirely in regards to any make/model that sits outside the square. I can see you in the PT Cruiser but you may have to live with an overall performance that doesn't quite match the looks.