Prepared for some quick thrills while car shopping, Gill South ended up finding the the perfect match, although, sadly, it wasn't meant to be...
I'm coming down from a car-shopping high. Honestly, I can't think of a more fun thing to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning than go down to my local Honda or Mazda dealer and take a few cars for a spin.
There are a surprising number of us "girl racers" around. I'd rather do this than clothes shopping, any day. I think it's thanks to my father, who worked in car finance - when I was growing up he brought home a different car every couple of years.
They were generally top-of-the-line Ford Falcons or Holdens and we'd go off for a celebratory Sunday drive, which usually involved icecream.
I want to upgrade to a larger car. We're finding our 2005 Honda Jazz Sport just a bit small with two growing boys - it's great for about town, but not so great for packing up and going off on holiday for two weeks.
I start my search with John Andrew Ford in Ponsonby, where my mother recently bought her Mazda 2.
I love Mazda 3s but have been told they are not a goer as they're not that much bigger than a Honda Jazz.
Eric is my contact at John Andrew Ford. He is a bright, friendly young guy who tells me that he is not interested in the hard sell.
We start off with a 2007 GSX Mazda 6 station wagon. Its mileage is over 100,000km so I'm not interested but it's the year I can afford. It's a nice car, handles well, and has plenty of grunt, which I like. Wrong colour too - colour is important to us women. I give it a whirl on the motorway, always a must, I find, and it leaps ahead no problem. Eric tells me the most common way people try out a new car is to drive up the Bullock Track in Grey Lynn. We do this with a 2006 Ford Mondeo Zetec, which was assembled in Belgium, Eric thinks. I put on the windscreen wipers instead of the indicator - yep, European assembled all right. It looks a bit like a VW Passat, if you squint. I've always liked Passats.
Whenever I go shopping, there are occasions when I fall in love. And it happens when I take a 2006 Honda Accord Euro for a spin. I bought the Honda Jazz from a chap called Erin at Honda Newmarket so he lets me drive the Euro unaccompanied, a nice treat. It's like a thoroughbred racehorse, responsive to the touch, pulling in neatly at the lights. It's a 2.4 litre engine, so plenty of virtual racehorses in there. We go through the Domain and down the North Western motorway a little bit. I'm grinning from ear to ear when I reluctantly bring it back. I tell Erin he's spoilt me for any other car.
Still, anxious to do some subjective research, I pop across the road to Andrew Simms Mitsubishi to check out the Mitsubishi equivalent of the Honda Accord or Euro and I'm told the Mitsubishi Lancer is the one. Daniel, a pleasant family man, points out a Lancer Fortis on special. He reminds me, just a bit, of a driving licence instructor and this feeling continues as he says he'll drive the car to Bassett Rd, then I can have a turn. As I take it up Ayr St in Parnell, the two-litre car shoots up, no problem but it does feel quite a bit smaller than the Euro. No chemistry.
I return to Erin. Having inspected my car, it seems that there is still too big a gap between trading in my yellow Honda Jazz Sport, my savings and the lovely Honda Euro. He shows me a zippy looking Honda Civic, but my heart is already lost to the Euro, reclining regally back in its slot in the car yard. Did I mention the Euro has his and hers air-conditioning? Sigh. This is not goodbye, I tell it, just au revoir.
Test driving tips
* If you want to do some test drives, make sure you take your driver's licence - the car yard won't let you drive the car without it.
* While you're there, get them to give you a price on a trade-in of your own car, so you know what bargaining power you have.
* Do your research on the car if it is imported. Some New Zealand dealers say imported cars are not as good as New Zealand-new. It's harder to check their history and, if it's imported from Japan, car drivers there are not as assiduous about servicing their cars. Look carefully at cars imported from Singapore - the humidity there has a wearing effect on cars.
* Check fuel efficiency when making your choice if you are concerned about petrol bills.
* How has your car been safety tested? With omni-directional crash testing or computer simulated? Crash testing is preferable.