Tuesday, June 20, 2006

1.6 litre or 2.0

I have all but given up purchasing a used car. Now my goal is to buy an Opel Astra, perhaps one of the few quality small cars GM produces. This car intrigues because of the fact that it is not sold in the US (but will be soon as a Saturn), and because it is generally considered a high quality German engineered machine. Even though it is produced under the enormous American umbrella that is General Motors, the Opel subsidiary, at least to my knowledge, seems to be a somewhat independent entity.

But I must wait. I have only been working at my company for two months, and another month must pass before I am officially off "probation" and get all the goodies and bonuses that are given when you work for an international conglomerate. GM vehicles at a discount is one of these goodies.

So I am left with the Astra. The Corsa is too dated and too small, the Vectra too big, the Chevrolets too cheap or ugly, the GMCs and other trucks too expensive and vulgar. Astra once again.

The Astra, for those who don't know, is the size of a Golf. It is considered a family car in Europe, and the car of an elf or a western expat in the Middle East. I am an expat.

What is remarkable about the Astra, is that even though it is an extremely popular car in Europe, especially in the UK and Germany, I have to date only seen one in Dubai. Of any model year. In fact I haven't seen many Opels altogether.

Why? The answer probably lies in the fact that the Opel dealership is in Sharjah, the neighboring Emirate (but really almost a continuation of Dubai). Now this worries me. If the car dealership is in Sharjah, will I be charged extra for having the car registered in Dubai, where I live? Hopefully not.

My other big dilemma is the engine size. Is a 1.6 capable of cooling my body and maintaining highway worthy speeds in Dubai? The 2.0 would probably succeed, but insurance is higher, as well as price.

Does anyone know? What should I do? I'd rather have the 1.6, but I'm worried it won't be enough. And the 2.0, while expensive now, would probably be a vehicle I could be happy with for a few years to come as my career progresses and my income grows too. When I'm a big CEO and we have the monthly engine size comparison contest, a 2.0 won't merit as much of a ribbing. I'm taking a five year loan out, so this is important!

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Sunday, June 18, 2006

Buying a Car is Hell

The search for a used car has probably met an end as I simply cannot find a quality used car in this country that I trust or like. I have test driven five vehicles, and I feel the used car dealers in this country are not reputable, or charge outrageous prices. My company allows me to get a huge deal on GM cars, and I think I am going to go with a new Opel Astra. I have yet to test drive one, but I plan to do so soon. The prices for new Astras are quite good, and I recently sat in an almost new VW Golf, a chief competitor to the Astra, and I liked the strength of the engine, as well as the strength of the A/C, as it battled 40 degree temperatures outside. Good enough for me, and a small 4 cylinder will be very cheap to fill up in this area of the world as well.

After sitting in dozens of cars, and test driving several others, I have to say it is quite clear in terms of initial quality that German cars are better made. Japanese cars are second, and American cars are a distant third. The interior quality of the Ford Mondeo and Euro-Focus, are decent, but still noticeably lacking. The Chevrolets are a disappointment, especially in terms of exterior aesthetics. Media photographs simply do not do these cars justice. German cars tend to photograph uglier, but in fact they are incredible inside. A colleague of mine recently bought a VW Golf, 2005 model, with only 20k km on the odometer, and the quality is stunning inside. They really are beautiful cars. I hope that an Astra will at least be comparable.

I will write more on this topic later, and soon. Needless to say, my experiences have been very eye-opening in many ways.

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