I have been married to Sue for over 46 years, and she is not given to spending money carelessly – an admirable trait in a person. All expenditure is carefully weighed up and justified.
Over our many years together, her venture into car ownership began in 1974 with a Hillman Minx bought for £50, and which dripped more petrol than it ever used, and which, when finally disposed of, was used by Rotherham Council Trading Standards department as an example of a car “which you should never buy” due to its multiple faults.
Over the years, the needs of ferrying four children at various stages in their growing-up, were met by Sue with a number of cost-effective solutions, including four second hand Citroen 2CVs. Sue was then the recipient in 2004, of a piece of husbandly forward-planning, being presented with a brand-new SEAT Arosa in metallic black.
For the next 13 years and 80000 miles, this car provided trusty and economical transport for both her and a variety of children. Regular servicing, a few new tyres and other consumables, and one new battery, and a purchase price of only £6500, was as good an investment as any new car is likely to be.
But many things in life start to sag after 13 years of hard use, and, to coincide with Sue’s retirement from her post at Newcastle University in 2016, she promised herself a well-deserved replacement, and one which would no doubt see her through the next 13 years.
So, what to buy. I have always prided myself as being something of a car buff, and offered my willingness to assist in the selection process. When suggesting that she point out anything she considered a ‘possible’ when we were out and about, and not much being forthcoming, I then asked her base criteria. “Small and red” was the answer. Not perhaps a technical argument for choosing a particular model, but at least straightforward and actionable.
I pulled up pictures of the best-selling and most highly regarded ‘city cars’, as first impressions count for something – it has to look decent, after all, and preferably red. There were some instant ‘No!” and “Really?” comments, which suddenly reduced the list of the motor industry’s pride and joy, to three cars – a Smart, a Suzuki Swift, and a Citroen C1.
We set aside a few hours to go and see them.
Firstly to Mercedes Newcastle (the Smart car dealer). After 10 minutes of walking around the ones in the showroom (all locked), someone finally deigned to speak to us. It then took them 15 minutes to find a ‘salesperson’ who knew something about the Smart. Then they couldn’t find keys to unlock the ones in the showroom – so more waiting. After a half hour, Sue and I looked at each other, shook our heads, and walked out. I daresay if we had come in to spend £50000 on a Merc, one of the smart-suited and -coiffeured young men might have sycophantically welcomed us to the garage – but alas, the Smart is very much the brand’s bastard brother on this showing. Suffice to say, there will be no return to that particular garage in my lifetime. I couldn’t even be bothered to let them know what I thought about the ‘customer experience’, and they probably wouldn’t have cared if I had have done.
Chastened by this, we hoped for better from Springfield (now Sherwood) in Gateshead, who sell Suzuki and Citroen from adjoining showrooms. We had a welcome (!), with Sue taking a look at the Swift before announcing within 5 seconds that it was “too big”. Muttered apologies to the salesperson, before walking across the carpark into the Citroen showroom. Once again, a real welcome and a helpful approach from the senior salesman. There was a C1 sitting there – and yes, it was the right size, easy to get in-and-out of, comfortable, but alas they didn’t have a red one in stock. At least this one had red wing mirrors to offset its white paintwork.
As we were in the market now, didn’t need finance, and could sign an order there and then, a fine deal was offered with a small trade in allowance for the Arosa. Sue signed the order form – and it was a very good deal!
19000 miles and four years on, Sue is delighted with her C1 Furio, with the 1.2 litre engine. It is a fast little car, suited equally to town and motorway, never short of power when needed – the engine size is greater than the car needs, but it’s always good to have something in reserve. 50 miles per gallon, town or country, a compliant ride, and genuine fun to drive. No problems to report – and I grab the keys whenever I can!! Good choice, Sue.
P.S. Exactly 4 years on from the purchase of the C1, it’s possible to buy a brand-new C1 to essentially the same spec, for even less than the deal we struck at the time. That’s great value, to my mind. Fine little cars.