Weekend leisure: It was love at first drive

By Gill South

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...

Being handed keys to test drive different cars can be a fun weekend activity. Photo / Thinkstock
Being handed keys to test drive different cars can be a fun weekend activity. Photo / Thinkstock

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.

- NZ Herald

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