The 3000 mile journey starts with finding the perfect car (for £2500)
So, this epic journey has to start somewhere, and that will start with the drivers choice of car. Currently, I own a 'stylish' 1.25 2006 Ford Fiesta, Dont get me wrong, its a great thing to rag and throw around, but its definitely not the Grand Tour standard car. It's time I find a worth partner, something of comfort, reliability, style and above anything, SPEED. My options seem wide, but i assure you, from what I've seen on AutoTrader and PistonHeads, its not what I'd call comforting. Within, i'll be addressing the issues of aesthetics, ergonomics, fuel economy, insurance and comfort. the knock out stages and finals to deciding my perfect touring car.
The no brainer, the go to, would be the E46 or the E90 BMW 320D. Basically the perfect car for going from A to B without turning heads and alerting the local police, but the issues with these high mileage, older models are very well documented, which ill come to later. 3000 miles in one car, it needs to be comfortable and fast, which these models are renowned for being. aesthetics are very much a key factor for me, I can't be blasting through midland France, in what is frankly a shit heap. The M Sport E46 I thought had real character, the wider arches and the sharp lines on the bonnet really attract me but the later E90's softened up and are quite rounded and are not as attractive.(debate amongst yourselves) Now, the interior, I HATE fabric interiors, I think they smell, they stain with whatever fluid was left by the previous owner, they are PROFOUNDLY uncomfortable in shorts and are overall, disgusting, so any, either E46 or E90, with fabric interiors are a definite no no. This is where I encounter an issue, the E90's within my budget are predominantly fabric, very few are leather or faux leather, where as there is an abundance in leather interior E46's. this is very much a factor in which major consideration needs to be take. Insurance is a funny issue here, the E46 would cost me £1210.46 to insure for the year, not too bad providing its quite a jump from a 1.25litre fiesta. but this is where the E90 falls short £1476.92 for a years insurance. similar car, similar miles, dimensions are fairly similar, so why the increase? admittedly, the E46 is a coupe and the E90 is a saloon with 4 doors, but does that merit and extra £200?? Moving away from the aesthetics insurance costs and aesthetics, fuel consumption becomes a major factor in selecting my perfect tour car. Now, we can see that as the engines developed, they became more efficient, the E46 saw an average of 44mpg at 60mph where the E90 saw an average of 48-50mph at the same speed. Objectively, we do see that this small increase could save me money and, in the long run, provide me with a better range, but do I care about this if i think the car looks too soft? Hmm, its a difficult choice between these two, but i think when considering the factors of aesthetics, insurance, fuels economy and age, I'll have to look at the E46 320D. Its definitely not worth me spending the same amount on a model which i'll be unhappy driving and will ultimately despise. E46 chosen out of these two!
Hatchbacks, are these a good choice for a Grand Tour? Large boot, good fuel economy, relatively stylish and, if the correct cars are chosen, objectively are good cars. Now, the selection is low for me, I see only 2 potential choices. These are the first series of BMW 1 Series 2.0 Diesel's and the MK5 Volkswagen Golf 2.0 TDI. Both cars drive well, proven to be solid pieces of equipment with quality engines. However, looking at the fuel economy of both cars, the Golf is an out and out winner, an extra projected 10mpg and a larger fuel tank, so the upper hand is already clear. Power wise, the BMW has an advantage here, which is something im considering deeply. French A roads are vast and very fast moving systems. I want to be able to mooch past at a fair few knots, where the BMW has 150BHP, the Golf only has around 97BHP, so i can see where passing lorries and the odd tractor would be the easiest in. Lacking compared to the saloons and the coupe's, these hatchbacks are relatively restricted in space, something I need a lot of for my 3 other occupants. Bags, food, gifts and various random pieces of equipment need to be accommodated, something i experienced to be relatively constricting in my fiesta, so this is a massive consideration when looking at the overall functionality of hatchbacks for 'Grand Touring'. Insurance with these two are very similar, both around £700, £500 less than the two 3 series, but would they be as useful? admittedly, this would mean i could invest more into the car i buy by saving money, but where is the fun in that? However, the insurance is not a determining factor in the choice of car. The Aesthetics of both the Golf and the 1 series are fairly dull if im being honest, barely interesting, both coated in horrible plastics and predominantly fabric, which is a massive no to me. but in the situation i am, i can't be so picky when considering the fascia and interior, I mean, look at my hair. These factors above made it very easy for me to chose between these two car, the 1 series has to be the choice of the two. its far more powerful, fuel economy is a bit contrived in comparison, but at 90mph does that really matter? not only that, but i think it has the style which I really care for, compared to the Golf, its 2 steps ahead.
Concluding my assessment of what i would consider to the perfect car for the job, i have decided to select the E46 BMW 320D coupe rather than the 1 series for the Grand Tour. On assessment of boot size, efficiency, style, how the car holds the road and interior, the E46 provides the full package. interestingly, it wont be this easy to find 'the' E46 320D. Brown interior? NO. Automatic? NO. It wont be easy to find, a manual, preferably black or grey, manual, black interior and the M Sport body. Oh, and definitely mechanically sound, or as close to! The Journey begins, but will I find what I want or will exceptions need to be made?