Maurice lives on the Coromandel and is looking to update his car, an old Peugeot diesel sedan.
"I simply don't travel anywhere near the distances I once did, which in my mind greatly reduces any financial benefits I used to enjoy owning a diesel," says Maurice.
Although he has always been a fan of the European brands, he has fallen in love with the new Mazda3 sedan and believes it's one of the best-looking vehicles on the market.
He has read a lot about Mazda's new Skyactiv technology and is asking if it's as good as it's cracked up to be and what non-SUV Euro brands he should be looking at as a comparison.
Having just driven the new Mazda3, I would have to say it presents a compelling argument for those looking to break away from the swing towards SUVs. For many, an SUV offers practicality rather than an enhanced driving experience, with most hatches and sedans providing much better road handling.
In addition, a well specced sedan or hatch can also be a real head-turner. This is how I met Maurice. He was walking around (and around) my Mazda3 press car in Whitianga.
Sales staff take note: people like Maurice are reasonably well informed but are always looking for those points of difference between one brand and another.
High on that list is obviously a vehicle's specification level but it can also be the after-sales benefits plus the feeling of trust within a particular business that can make a sale.
Price is important but not always the deal clincher for many. Understanding a customer's needs is also critical with the diesel v petrol debate a good example of outlining the potential benefits and savings one fuel type has over another.
Overall, there are no bad new vehicles on offer; it's often the individual dealership and sales staff that can make the first positive impression and close a sale.
Good looks, competitive pricing plus a long specification list combine to present an impressive package in both the sedan and hatch. Prices start at $32,795 for the 2l GLX and top out at $47,495 for the 2.5l Limited models which are both fitted with six-speed autos. Specifications levels vary depending on model but include practical driver aids such as navigation, blind spot monitoring, reverse camera, rear proximity sensors, forward obstruction and lane departure warning plus driver heads-up display (vehicle speed is displayed on front windscreen in driver's view).
A realignment of pricing in recent times brings the C4 into contention for those with a preference for a European badge and design. Citroen NZ marketing staff now consider this vehicle as genuine competition for the likes of the Mazda3, Toyota Corolla etc. Retail prices range from $25,990 for the entry level five-speed manual to $31,490 for the more highly specced 4-speed auto Exclusive model. Both are fitted with an 88kW 1.6l petrol engine. A generous safety package is available on both variants. Value for money wise it's worth a look and you could end up spending well below your budget limit. The four-speed auto is fast becoming outdated in the industry and could be a possible downside for some.
Don't let the smaller 1.4TFSI S Tronic engine turn you off. It packs a good punch (90kW) and helped by a seven-speed auto produces a claimed combined fuel consumption of just 5.3l/100km. It has all you would expect from a Euro brand, including good road manners and a high quality interior layout. Retail price standard is $40,800 but be careful as it does not include additional options such as parking aids, auto air-conditioning and navigation.
Go and visit all these showrooms and let the overall dealership and sales staff presentation, plus their product knowledge, be the starting point.