- Hero image by Matt Parsons

I got my driving license comparatively late. Actually, that happened on the eve of my 30th birthday. The major reason for this is money. It took me ten years working in Ukraine and earning nothing to understand that the “system needs reboot”. No, let me put it the other way... I was capable to earn for living and continued dreaming of happiness in my home country, but it was almost impossible to make any savings and buy a car. And not only a car. Unless you engaged yourself into a “gray” sphere of economics. I did not. So I moved to Poland, the closest EU member-state. Things went much much better there.

So, on the eve of 30 I was able to save enough money and pay for the driving school. The instructor was hell of a man with a great sense of humor! In a month I successfully graduated. Then there was the state driving test, which I passed on my first attempt. And then...

Picking up my first car... My OWN first car, not the family one... Boy, what a task that was! As a researcher in social sciences, I attempted to approach it in a very academic way.

At the very beginning I examined the market and made a selection of cars I liked. These were 10-and-more years old charismatic-and-solidly-built machines. The maximum price was set to €1500 / $1800. On a deeper scrutiny, my first selection appeared to have a major “methodological fault.” I looked for “big boxes” with comparatively “big engines” what was not the best option for the city. At least for Warsaw. A smaller and more maneuverable vehicle could make a much better choice.

These and other photos are taken from my FB page.

These and other photos are taken from my FB page.

So, my searching filters were re-arranged. At the very end I came up with the list of cars which looked nice, were cheap to run, gathered positive drivers' opinions, and fitted my price range. One by one, I started to present each of the candidates on my FB page to hear the public opinion.

First to emerge in my friends' timeline was Honda Civic Coupe Mk5 (1991-1995). I considered it to be one of the best options. Sporty looking, economic, maneuverable, and reliable enough to improve my driving skills. The price was also attractive. By the way, at that period of time I knew nothing of its magnificent D-series engines. I simply liked how it looked.

The next day Volvo 460 (1989-1995) was brought to light. Yes, yes, don't be so shocked. Because of its tank-kind-impenetrability, Volvo seemed to be a good candidate to enrich (acquire?) my driving experience. I also had a sentiment to all square-shaped Volvos as my cousin drove '79 Volvo 244 (he still drives it, actually). However, it was a completely different piece of a car if to compare with Honda: slow, comfortable, and wobbly. In a word, 460 could become my personal armored vehicle.

On a third day Audi A4 (B5) was starring (1995-2001). The same as Volvo 460, it was a solid piece of metal which could provide a secure and comfortable drive. Unlike Volvo, though, it was designed better. This made it a bit more attractive and a bit more expensive. Also, if to believe opinions of ~1000 drivers, Audi's reliability was not that rock solid as in Volvo 460, Honda Civic Mk5, or even in its “twin-brother” Seat Toledo Mk2 (see below). This being said, Audi scored an extra credit because “I'm my father's son” and my dad drove Audi.

Forth day belonged to Rover 45 (1999-2005). A joint British-Japan development, half Rover half Honda. Stylish, original, with recognizable chromed grill and plenty of wood (or pseudo-wood) in its interior. Comfortable and economic, maneuverable and reliable (less than Honda and Volvo, however). Main disadvantages resided in its problematic petrol K-type engine, unavailability of spare parts, and “boring” interior design (frankly speaking, I never liked how British crafted interiors).

Fifth day and Seat Toledo Mk2 (1999-2004). Designed and manufactured in Spain under the meticulous German “supervision.” This made it a “twin-brother” to WV Bora and Audi A4 (B5). Plethora of spares, mates! Seat was one of the most reliable cars in my prise range (if to believe owners). As for the design, it looked “meaty” and “clumsy,” what, however, was not that tragic. The interior might have been better finished, though. Dashboard was made of a very poor, boring, and squeaky plastic.

No money for Ferrari? Buy Peugeot 406 Coupe (1997-2004). That is what my FB friends saw on their sixth day. The car was designed by Carozzeria Pininfarina, the same company designing majority of Ferraries. I liked virtually everything in Peugeot, except for some minor “vices:” wasteful petroleum engines, excessively lowered suspension, “boring” central console, too “small” rear lights, etc. The car had the same sporty look as Honda Civic Mk5, however it was bigger and almost ten years newer. It was also more expensive. Finally, there was also a risk to buy a “heavy-duty” Peugeot; it was loved by boy-racers.

And the last day... I was never a fan of Italian cars, but this Fiat Stilo (2001-2007) left a good impression. It was a comfortable, spacious, and maneuverable. Its engines and suspension were designed for the city (at that time I knew nothing of Stilo's Schumacher edition). Moreover, it had a very attractive correlation as the price and year of production were concerned. Weak point of Fiat, however, resided in a comparatively poor reliability of its electrical system. At least its owners pointed on this fault.

Then there was a day for taking decisions. The What-Car-Poll Day. I asked the engaged – and already educated – FB readers to vote and help me choosing The Car. Above all, I was interested to know what exact vehicle they did associate with my personality.

Twenty nine friends of mine voted in the poll. Seven friends wrote me about their preferences in private messages or comments to pictures. This voting diversity was a bit confusing, however, I was very grateful everyone for their engagement.

Final results were as follows:

1. Audi A4 (B5) ---> 12 votes. WINNER!

2. Honda Civic V ---> 8 votes.

2. Rover 45 ---> 8 votes.

3. Fiat Stilo ---> 4 votes.

4. Volvo 460 ---> 2 votes.

4. Peugeot 406 ---> 2 votes.

4. Seat Toledo II ---> 2 votes.

As you may see, introduction of the seven “hidden” votes into the poll changed nothing (see the screenshot above). Audi remained in the lead, Honda & Rover came second.

From this moment I started monitoring the market for the best Audi and Honda offers. You may ask “Hey! What about Rover!?” Hmmmm... the only available vehicles were either with K-engines, or diesels with 200K on the odometer. So I crossed Rover out from the list.

The more I searched, the more I read drivers' opinions, the more information I absorbed about both vehicles. The weakest points of Honda were rust and the driver's security. Only regularly garaged vehicles from '90 were free of the “red maiden”. However, they also were more expensive. As for the security, this generation of Civic's was known in Poland as the “death trap.” On every serious collision the car's body wrapped like an accordion bag. This was the serious issue for me as for the beginner.

Audi, in its turn, was more secure and less rusty. However, it was also more bold and more “usual” (more German?). Get me right: it was a well-assembled and comfortable vehicle, but there was nothing “extra” in it. Apart from this, I did not like seeing myself as the driver of A4.

After a few days of comparing advantages and disadvantages, I was inclined to buy Honda.

And drive it carefully.

And then a friend of mine called and asked: “Hey, mate, why don't you buy Mazda 323F?”

And I did.


#story, #acadrive, #smalltribesrule, #originalcontent, #fiat, #stilo, #rover, #honda, #civic, #mazda, #323, #323F, #lantis, #astina, #volvo, #audi, #a4, #peugeot, #seat, #toledo, #car, #cars, #firstcar

P.S. Matt Parsons can be reached here: www.behance.net/Matthew_Parsons_SA

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