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The critic: ‘Owning a car should be enjoyed not endured’

2016-07-11 08:49

BUYING A NEW CAR: Purchasing a new car does not have to be a chore. Image: AP

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The TopCar team tests the Ford Mustang, powered by a 2.3 four-cylinder EcoBoost, with a drive through Cape Town and end up having lunch at a famous fast food eatery.

Duane Dell'Oca

Johannesburg - As with going to the theatre, owning a car should be enjoyed not endured

I am writing this after getting home early from the theatre, an experience so singularly excruciating that it may as well have been the operating theatre… without anesthetic.

I love art and theatre is a large part of my art appreciation adventure.

The beauty and movement of ballet encapsulates that majesty, set to a spirited soundtrack. So, when I excitedly made my way out of the front door, I was not expecting something with less rhythm than a drunk mule.

'Bordering on vengeful'

In the 53 minutes (it seemed so much longer) before the interval of this Russian routine, I faced a range of emotions. I was dumbfounded, annoyed, exacerbated and soon enough, bordering on vengeful. 

I can endure something unpleasant out of a sense of politeness but this performance was so utterly dire that, for the first time in my life, I refused to stay for the second act.

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The first dancers thudded about, as if they were jumping on hollow tiles, wearing clogs. The principal dancers emerged with all the timing of a Pompeii property investor in 79AD. The male lead had no speed and judging by the incomplete lift, which revealed what Ali G would refer to as his partner’s ‘camel hoof’, no power either. He was the ballet equivalent of a Tata Nano.

By the time the ballerina inadvertently kicked the danseur during the pas de deux I knew I couldn’t stay. I may have paid R500 for the ticket, but the way I calculate it, by leaving after act one, I was paying them R250 to not watch the second half.

Driving home, I remembered the last time I felt this disappointed. A friend (let’s call him Bob*) who is more interested in the nocturnal habits of celebrities than cars, had asked me to help him through the process of buying a new car. Now, Bob has a heart of gold, but still spends more on hair products each month than food. And Bob told me he wanted something practical, yet fuel efficient. He should have just said ‘cheap’.

I recommended a few options to test drive. After working through my selection he said he wanted to try something a little more ‘cost effective’. I have no objection to anyone buying a car within their budget, but Bob can afford a luxury car.

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I sat bewildered in the passenger seat as he drove a few huff-and-puff-mobiles, one of them that I had suggested based solely on some marketing spin I recalled. I heard noises not associated with sturdy engineering, experienced power only associated with a hamster on a wheel and saw finishing so rudimentary, I assumed child labour existed.

Advice and guidance

I was so frustrated by the build quality, not even imaginary musings of litigation for false advertising could quell my disappointment! Could I let a friend buy a car with no hope of ever making the Best Entry level Cars list in this magazine, let alone halfway up an incline?

I offered the second-hand… I mean, pre-owned option as an alternative. Numerous used cars would excel in comparison to these little cars, but he was insistent on a new car. Ultimately though, common sense prevailed and Bob bought a comparatively priced, pre-owned Audi that he adores.

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We drive cars for a range of reasons and each one of us has different priorities. In this economic climate, some of us buy cars for their fuel efficiency. Some of us buy cars for their performance. Others for safety. I even know a woman who bought a car because the dealership is directly across the road from her home.

If you are going to spend a significant time behind the wheel though, I believe a car is an item you should invest in. I am not suggesting it needs to have rhodium controls, James Earl Jones in the satnav and seats fashioned from unicorn leather.

But if you enjoy watching sport on the weekend, you don’t settle in front of your grandparents’ hand-me-down black and white box, you buy the best or largest LED television you can afford.

I buy cars for their comfort and ride quality. Driving a luxurious car takes precedence over dining out, drinking or late night entertainment. By buying my indulgent German car, I am effectively saying to the manufacturers of those unpleasant ‘cheap’ cars that I pay R250 every single day to not drive them.

* Names have been changed to protect those potentially humiliated by the facts.

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