It feels like it has been a while since I posted an update on my personal car situation but there has been yet more change in my personal garage over the last few months so it only felt right to fill everyone in.
Back in August I decided to go back to a company I had worked for in the past and restart my career there with a great team I used to work with - it was a really hard decision to make but given my personal circumstances, it was definitely the right thing to do. Over the 18 months, I was away from the company I found myself missing the people I worked with more and more and it felt right to dust off my suit and get back on the road. This did, however, create a bit of a transport issue for me. As you may remember, at the end of last year I sold my brilliant, if not somewhat temperamental, Land Rover Discovery 3 and then I bought an old 1997 Jaguar XJ Sport, which again, I sold so for the last 6 months I have using my little Eunos Roadster as a daily. Until now, this really hasn't been a problem as the little Nipper is comfy enough on short trips to car shows and test days and it's been so cheap to run, but it did have its downsides. The car was always bought as a project car as it needed a lot of paintwork and bodywork doing to it before I would be happy to bring it out on a daily basis, and the fuel tank was tiny and it really wasn't as economical as you would expect for a car that weighs about the same as my left foot... The main issue, however, is that in the role I was going back in to, I would be racking up around 30,000 miles a year again. A challenge I really don't think a 26-year-old Mazda with over 250,000kms on the clock would really be up for.
The idea of buying a new car always gets me excited, regardless of budget, condition, age etc... I just love looking at cars - whether it's going into a shiny new showroom to look at new BMWs or meeting someone at their house to discuss the final offer on an old banger over a cup of tea, the whole buying and selling game gets me excited. I especially love setting myself the challenge of finding a particular car that has to tick some very specific boxes for a set purpose. This time, the requirement was simple. It had to be comfy for long distance motorway driving (a lot of my clients are in places like Bristol and Manchester and I live near Cambridge), it had to return at least 45mpg (so probably a diesel) and it had to be big enough and practical enough to be our everyday car for all things life related (trips to the tip, airport runs, the big shop etc) - all fairly straightforward and with a tight budget of £3,000, I opened my laptop up and started trawling eBay and Autotrader. The only real problem as that I accepted the offer to return to the company on Friday to start on Monday - I had to act FAST. By midnight on the Friday I had bookmarked around 40 cars in a 35-mile radius to my house and then I started to whittle them down to ones I felt I could actually live with. I finally narrowed it down to 3 cars, and luckily for me, they were all about 3 miles apart and only half an hour from my house. Saturday was going to be a fun day - although it was meant to be me and my girlfriends anniversary, so not quite as fun as she had hoped...
The three cars in question were a B6 VW Passat Estate, and Saab 93 Estate and a Volvo XC70 Estate. The VW Passat was my first choice as it's a car I've always kind of liked and it ticked all the boxes on paper. Unfortunately, in the flesh, it just wasn't as good as I'd hoped. It turns out VW specs have gone a bit BMW over the years, and even though it was far from an entry level bog-spec car, the interior did nothing for me and the factory options were few and far between. The decision to walk away from the German wagon was finally made clear to me when I walked around the back to open the boot and found a 10p sized rot hole in the number plate plinth going right into the rear storage area. The Saab was sadly a similar tale, and even though I love the styling of the 93 wagons, the whole Saab going bust thing kept weighing on my mind should I need any work doing to it in the future. It also looked like it had been washed with a Brillo pad... Third times a charm, right? Well, that never actually happened. The main reason I had picked the XC70 is that A) I had one before and it was brilliant, and B) I have a proper soft spot for Volvos. The reason this never happened was simple, as I was walking around the generic used car supermarket forecourt in Peterborough, something caught my eye that I had never even thought about before. A car so well respected and loved that journalists and door to door salesmen can do nothing but praise them. A car so practical it hurts. A car so generic, it goes almost unnoticed in the wild. The car in point is, of course, a Ford Mondeo.
As I was wondering about weighing up the pros and cons of a car with a bloody great hole in the tailgate against one that been polished with rocks, this big silver whale of a car sat there, right in my line of sight, and then everything clicked. It's big (really bloody big), it has a fantastically economical 1.8 TDCI engine and it had squishy armchair seats and cruise control. Boxes ticked. It was also 2 years newer than the other cars, much roomier, had fewer miles on the clock and with it being a Ford, came fully loaded with voice command, Bluetooth, electric everything and that all-important heated windscreen. But was I really ready to become "Mondeo Man"? Well, it turns out after a pleasant test drive, yes.
Now 4 months into ownership and all reports are good, I'm averaging 52mpg on a daily commute and I even got 56mpg on a drive up to Liverpool last week. The Mondeo is a car I was so against over the years, telling myself when buying a used car the key is to get the most bang for your buck - sound advice that has crippled me financially multiple times over the years as I've driven off the forecourt in 15-year-old Audi A8s that barely return double digits in fuel economy and S Class Mercedes' that cost a grand to service. It turns out my advice was correct, I was just looking at it in completely the wrong context. Do not by any means think this is the end of my reckless purchasing, I still have plans one day to own something like a Porsche 911 or Bentley GT and probably many other bank balance-destroying bad ideas, but for what I need the car for right now, nothing else even comes close. It's also bloody good to drive. Like, really good. It may be big and a tad wallowy, but the steering is superb - it feels like it's on rails, and even the slightly underpowered 123bhp diesel lump has a bit of poke when it needs it. The only real criticism I have is that the gearing isn't quite "right" - it revs too high in third at 30mph, but struggles in fourth, and it's similar at 40mph with fourth and fifth, but you get used to it after a while - a sixth gear would be ideal but it's doing what it needs to for the time being.
I don't really have any plans for it moving forward other than regular servicing, replacing bits when needed and just using it for what I bought it for - getting me around the country for work. I would like some 18" wheels for it, and I'd also like to upgrade the headunit at some point, but these are all nice to haves, and not necessities. For now, I'm just enjoying playing the "how much can I get out a full tank" game - the best I've got so far is 840 miles from the 70-litre tank!