Saturday, December 17, 2005

Young American in Europe Wants to Buy a Car

I'm not actually in the market for a car (yet), but like anyone fascinated by the subject of cars, I continuously dream about what my first car would be once I get the chance to purchase one. I have some requirements:

1. The car must not be sold in the United States. I don't want a car I can get back home. In fact I want a car I can't get back home. I want something none of my friends will be able to purchase. Which brings me to my second requirement.

2. The car must not be from a brand sold in the United States. That means no Ford, no VW, no Honda, no Toyota, no overlap whatsoever. Some will argue that there are many models of cars from these companies that are not sold in America. My counter argument is that with rising gas prices, many of the smaller model Fords and Toyotas for example will soon be sold in America. I don't want to be ahead of the curve, I want something completely different.

3. Nothing Japanese. I just finished owning a 2001 Nissan Sentra for the past four years. Now this requirement is really mostly taken up with the second requirement, but there is Daihatsu which is sold in the UK and no longer available in America. And no I will not buy a Daihatsu.

4. The car must be cheap. That means I will not spend more than 10,000 pounds on the car, and probably not more than 8000. That means the cars I have to choose from will either be used or in the "supermini" class of vehicles. Right now the Chevrolet Aveo and Mini are the only two cars I can think of sold in the US that qualify for this class size.

5. The car will be a diesel. Diesels last longer than regular gasoline (petrol) vehicles, so if I decide to buy used, I will be more likely to have a car without engine trouble. Also gasoline is expensive over in Europe, and diesels are far more economical in this area. And though I grew up with a diesel car in my family, I'd like to see the improvements made by Europeans in this area.

6. No cars from Malaysia, India, South Korea. I just don't believe that cars from these nations have the reliability yet for Western consumption. South Korea is probably an exception, but that would only lead it to fall under the category of cars available in the US which is something I really don't want.

So what does that leave me with? It leaves me with not much choice, which is how I want things to make for a quick decision. I'll probably go with a small Peugeot or Citroen, or perhaps a Renault. The Renault Clio is supposed to be a fantastic car in the supermini segment, but I'm worried that I will be really buying a Nissan (since both companies are together) and I just came out of four years of Nissan ownership. I'm really looking at Citroen C2 or C1, or possibly Peugeot 207. The Peugeot isn't out yet, currently Peugeot sells the 206, which is a bit long in the tooth. If anyone has any other suggestions, let me know in the comments below.

What about Skoda, Fiat, Alfa Romeo or Seat? Skodas are just rebadged VW, so I guess they're out. Fiat and Alfa may show up on these shores again, so they're probably not an options, except maybe Fiat's super mini car. Seat?? I haven't kept up on those.

Hell go with a Ford Ka, they're cheap to own, reliable and will never come to the US. Top Gear has had good things to say about them. It's dare to be different, but with reliability and on a budget.
Seat is also a rebadged VW. The Seat I would be interested in would be the Ibiza, and I just don't like the way it looks. Other Seats are really good looking in my opinion but are larger and more expensive. But the fact that they are rebadged VWs hurts their cause.

Alfa Romeos are expensive and are seen as lower end luxury cars like SAABs. They are also known to not be reliable. I think they are beautiful but too expensive for me.

Fiats are the other choice. But again they are also seen as unreliable and I personally think very bland looking.

The Ford Ka is interesting but it is absurdly small. It's also a bit old.

I forgot to mention Vauxhall. I like the Astra, but it's too expensive. The Corsa is in my market, but it's also too old and dated.

You would love the small cars Ford makes here in Europe. They're very competent and good looking. I have no idea why Ford cannot translate this over to America.
Personally I think the chance of Fiat showing up on American soil anytime soon is remote at best so you ought to consider the Panda which is suppossed to be a decent Supermini.

Seats are rebadged VWs, it beats me why they've chosen yo compete with themselves by offering so many versions of the same car. VW's are highly regarded in the UK.
If you read CAR you'll be amazed at the difference between how Vee-dubs are percieved in the US and the UK.

I'll echo Big Ford's comments about the Ka and add that any diesel-powered supermini will offer a completely different experience than cars offered by the same make in North America.

The Panda is an interesting idea, but it's marketed as a 4X4 supermini SUV. It has a high driving position, and a high center of gravity. I would be more in the market for the Punto if I wanted a FIAT. The Punto is being replaced soon with a new version. The current Punto is very bland looking.

I don't know why VW sees fit to compete against itself either. SEAT makes no money. I personally am not drawn to the SEAT Ibiza or Skoda supermini (name escapes me). I think they are weird looking. The VW Polo isn't that great looking either, but I do like the new Golf. The new Golf is out of my price range though and is sold in America.

As for the Ford Ka, I've read reviews about it and they all say it's good. However it is seen by many as a girl's car. It's too "cute".

Thanks for your opinions so far, and keep them coming!
Hi Rick, I've seen all of Ford's offerings in Europe and have wondered why some of them couldn't come to the US. My favorite is the Ford Fusion mini mpv, it's based on Fiesta mechanicals, much like many past and present small models.

I've heard the Ka referred to as a chick car, but it's also got a big enthusiast base, and poplular with guys. Don't forget that a lot of people called the Miata a chick car, and it's very popular and sucessful in racing.

Renault seems the next choice after Ford, and don't worry about them coming to the US, it's unlikely. It seems they don't even have the stomach for the Chinese market. And the Megane and Clio are highly regarded.
You can never go wrong with a diesel from Peugeot or Citroen. My dad has been driving a small 206 for 5 years and never had any serious problem with the car.
VW is overpriced in Europe as it is in the USA. But somebody likes VW is always better to get Skoda or Seat, same car different exterior.
Fiat,, not sure about if they are dependable at last. Small European Fords are really good. I drove an old Fiesta for years and I loved it.
Not many good diesel engines find their way into superminis. Personally I'd ditch that requirement and instead look for a frugal petrol-engined car that might actually be fun to drive.

Have you considered a Smart Coupe or Roadster, for example?

Your budget would buy a one year old Roadster from the approved used scheme - two seat, reliable open-top motoring and 55 miles per gallon from a 3-cylinder, turbocharged, 700cc engine.

Mercedes is no longer making new ones, so in a couple of years' time it will be collectible and you'll probably sell it for what you paid.


By the way, Alfa Romeos aren't all unreliable. I have a 147 that's done 35,000 miles to date and the worst fault so far is a blown sidelight bulb which admittedly is a bitch to replace.
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