We had rather a nice surprise on Tuesday. We had Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday off work, because we were going to see An Evening With Andy Rouse on Tuesday night, and since I had plenty of holiday left, figured we’d take a bit of time around it.
On Tuesday morning, just as we were wondering what to do with the day up until we went to see Andy, my mobile rang. It was my mum, just calling to check that she had the right mobile number for me, and delete the other numbers she still had lying around from phones long since gone. Oh, and while she was talking to me, would we do something for them while we were off? Would we mind picking out our Christmas present for this year? Any car we wanted, with a budget of up to £10,000.
Obviously, it took a while to lift my jaw back up and speak coherently (well, as coherently as usual, anyway), but once I had, I agreed to have a look around.
So, on the way to Street, we took a detour to Taunton. Our first stop was at the Mercedes dealer to have a quick look at a Smart ForTwo. It was very much a long shot, as we wouldn’t be able to even offer anyone a lift and would struggle to take anything more than our shopping with us. Even having our cameras somewhere accessible from the seats would be tricky. Also, the safety of them would probably rank as mediocre in a ten year old car, and is pretty poor these days. Actually, looking back on it, I’m not even sure why I thought it might be an option, but I wanted to check if we could fit comfortably in one. We’re both on the weighty side, though Sam is very rapidly becoming less so, and I’m quite tall, so the first step with any car is to find out if we could actually get around in it comfortably.
We parked up and walked in to the dealer. There was a salesman quite handy, but he was on the phone. We waited around until he finished his call, but he then made another call without actually acknowledging our existence. We found our own way to the Smarts, and did get a slight glance from the cleaners, but only because we’d walked on the floor they’d just washed. The Smart fitted. The dealer seemed to be coming over, but he took a turn and walked past us without a glance. We got the message – were are not Mercedes people. Not even, in fact, Smart people. We left.
Our next stop was Toyota. We’ve had two of them, and liked them a lot. We’ve always loved the dealers, too, and this one was no exception. We told the salesman that we were interested in looking at the Aygo and the Yaris, and he showed us around both. I’ve already written up a few thoughts on them. The biggest problem was the gearboxes. I drive an automatic, and I’ve only driven automatics since passing my test in a manual. I have no wish to start stirring a stick around now, not when the car is quite capable of doing that part itself. All of the current model Toyotas that have ‘automatic’ gearboxes actually have a MultiMode manual gearbox. You can switch it to automatic mode, but even then you have to lift off the accelerator to let it change gears. Not quite as automatic as we were hoping.
They had nothing used to show us, so we left it at that for the day and continued on to Street.
Exeter Car Supermarket
After some chat with my dad, I figured the Yaris was head of the list so far, but the gearbox was a bit of a concern. Our search continued.
On Wednesday, we thought we’d do a bit of a tour around the dealers in the Marsh Barton area of Exeter. We started with the Exeter Car Supermarket, thinking that would give us a good idea what the money would get us secondhand. The salesman seemed keen to show us the wide range of automatics he had available, right up until he had to admit that they had two. He did show us them – a Peugeot 307 and a Rover 25, but neither excited us in any way, and he didn’t seem very keen either.
We had actually tried to look at the Honda dealer in Taunton, but it had closed before we got there. So, we popped in to Hendy Honda in Exeter next. Our first impression of the dealer was that it was very much like a Toyota dealer – pleasant and friendly, with a quick greeting and a relaxing feeling. They told us that the Jazz was their cheapest car, but once it was up to a high enough spec to have the option of automatic, it was getting a bit beyond our price range, but they could show us some nice used cars within budget.
They had two Civics available, both nice, but one of a much higher spec than the other, and with a larger engine. They also had two CR-Vs, again, one rather newer and nicer than the other. And black.
I’d always fancied having a Toyota RAV-4, and the CR-V is Honda’s equivalent.
We had a bit to think about from that, so we headed home to ponder.
Next day, we decided we really should check out the dealers in Tiverton. Well, ok, so there’s a Vauxhall dealer, but we weren’t going to take the ‘consider everything’ policy quite that far.
We did call in at the Ford dealer, with very low expectations. The salesman was actually really quite good. The only thing he had there to offer us was a Fiesta, but it was a nice spec for a reasonable price. He also offered us what seemed like a reasonable price for our old Flossie.
Next, we headed for the Renault dealer, thinking that a Clio could be an option. He told us he had nothing at all in stock to show us, then said he’d take us out to show us both of them. We were confused, but he did show us a pretty nice looking Clio, and then a very surprising Scenic. The surprising thing was that we really liked it. It was only a year or so old, and not a bad price. He also offered us double what the Ford dealer had offered us for Flossie.
We had a new favourite. Right up until we got home and looked up Renault and the Scenic on the What Car JD Power Survey where the Scenic did badly and had a poor reliability record, and the Top Gear Survey where Renault were the second worst manufacturer.
The very top ranking manufacturer in the Top Gear survey was Skoda, so we thought we’d have a look. They had nothing used available, and said that getting anything would be very difficult. They did have the Fabia (which I was careful not to call the Labia whilst at the dealer), but it was too far over budget, and they had a twelve week waiting list. That didn’t give them much incentive to give a good offer for Flossie, either, making things worse. Nice cars, and the dealer was very straight with us, but it didn’t seem like an option.
Back to Honda to poke the Civic and the CR-V again. Both were very nice. The Civic seemed much more sensible – a simple hatchback with good fuel economy. The CR-V was bigger than we need, drinks a bit too much petrol, and we don’t need to drive off road. We still wanted it.
We took both for a test drive. The CR-V was surprisingly easy to drive, and the extra height was good. It was comfortable, and had a bit more power than Flossie. Flossie is only a 1.3 auto, so she does struggle on some of Devon’s steeper parts. We’ve hit hills around here where we can only just creep up them at 10mph. The Civic felt a little firmer when cornering reasonably hard – roundabouts felt a little easier – but didn’t have such good visibility compared to the CR-V, and Sam came away with a bruise on her leg where the door was too close against her. I was a little more pressed against the centre console than I’m used to, but it was still quite comfortable. We left to ponder.
We had lots to talk about that evening, though Sam’s part in the conversation was mainly “WE CAN HAS HONDA CR-V?”. We finally concluded that yes, we can has Honda CR-V.
Sam called the salesman (Phil Sharpe – thanks, Phil!) on Friday morning, and confirmed that we would have the CR-V. My parents called him and paid the deposit.
We have decided to name it Bob. It’s a long story, and not actually very interesting or amusing, so I won’t go into it.
We filled in a bit more paperwork today, and although we still have a bit to do with changing the number plate over from Flossie, we’re pretty much all there now.
Anyway, pictures. Here we go – Bob:
All being well, we’ll be picking him up in a week or so. We’ll miss Flossie – she’s been a good car, especially for a sheep, but we’re looking forward to the fun we’ll have around Devon with something a bit more powerful, and capable of pulling off the road wherever there are pretty things to photograph.