Sunday, May 22, 2011

That was a fast 5 years

So I have a new car. Again. And it's been less than 2 years since I bought the Civic Si. The 5 year car contract is officially a failure.

I still maintain that the decision to buy the Civic turned out to be a great one despite this failure. More on that in a bit though.

Fortunately for me, the terms of this 5 year agreement never spelled out any repercussions for failing to meet its terms (other than personal shame). As Louise recalls, soon after the contract was signed, we discussed this oversight and I suggested that I would modify it to spell out some sort of prize for her or penalty for me if I failed keep my end of the bargain. I may have forgotten to actually ever do that...

The fact that I have failed to adhere to this contract could be seen as a sign of personal weakness on my part and perhaps it could be seen as evidence that I really am car sick. I certainly wouldn’t argue against such observations. I would argue, however, that the real flaw in my ways was thinking the contract was a good idea in the first place (which some people pointed out at the time.)

This car for 5 years? Seriously?!

I didn’t have the Civic long before its flaws (and thus the flaws in the contract) started to become apparent.

The first issue I had with the car was the comfort of the driver’s seat. The lumbar support in the Civic Si is ridiculous. And there is nothing you can do about it because it can’t be adjusted. Somehow Honda has come to the conclusion that all Civic Si buyers want their lumbar support permanently set to extreme lumbar. I’ll admit that I noticed this issue when I test drove it but I thought that with time I would get used to it. Instead it only became more and more apparent. Over the entire time I had the car, I couldn’t drive it for more than a half hour in a day with out getting a backache.

As time passed, more incompatibilities between the Civic Si and me began to surface. A few boiled down to the fact that the car was too hardcore for comfortable daily usage. The suspension is clearly designed with high speed cornering in mind and excels at that. This unfortunately comes at the cost of comfort on real life pothole covered roads where the ride is punishing both to the car and its driver.

I have a similar issue with the car's engine. The 197 horsepower VTEC is meant to move the car quickly, and indeed it can. Unfortunately, all this power doesn’t come in to play until after you’ve reached 6000 RPMs at which point the engine comes alive, starts pulling hard, and makes a loud and cool noise. Well, it’s a cool loud noise for a test drive at least. Again, in real life it’s difficult and awkward to take advantage of this power. How often is one really going to really do an all out 8,000 RPM acceralation run in a day-to-day driving? For me the answer is almost never.

I had several other less significant complaints about the car, most revolving around the car not living up to Honda’s sterling reputation for quality and reliability but I’ll forgo getting in to those smaller complaints here.

The justification.

If there is one thing that can help me justify any discretionary car purchase or exchange, it’s the deal -- or potential for a deal.

As the months passed, I tried to suppress these nitpicks to the best of my ability and accept that I just needed to live with them. That is, I did until a couple weeks ago when I happened to stumble across some very interesting data. Perhaps largely due to some very unfortunately circumstances, Japanese cars are in very short supply right now and the relative demand is high. So much so that according to Kelly Blue Book the dealer trade in value for my car was nearly the same as the full price that I paid for the car when I bought it brand new 2 years ago. Now this was something that warranted further investigation!

Finding the perfect car (again).

I spent the subsequent weeks researching and test driving cars. I knew I wanted something more comfortable. Also, given the wannabe hippies that Louise and I are, I wanted something efficient.

I drove a couple new Ford Foci and came away pretty impressed -- I love the styling inside and out. I drove a Prius and was very unimpressed -- I know it’s a great car for efficiency but it’s just too slow for me it felt kind of tinny and rattly. I also drove VW GTI, Golf Diesel, and a Jetta Diesel Sportwagen.

A lot of factors and considerations came in to play while making a decision but ultimately I came to the conclusion that for me and my needs and tastes, the Jetta diesel wagon is the best car available.

It’s compact enough to be nimble but has a fairly roomy interior and a tremendous amount of interior cargo volume. It has excellent handling but the ride is still silky smooth. The DSG automated manual transmission is responsive and fast yet offers all the convenience of an automatic. The huge amount of torque from the diesel engine makes it feel faster than it really is, yet it’s extremely fuel efficient. The attention to detail in the car’s over all execution, the giant glass roof, and its general ambiance make it a real luxury car. And most importantly, it has the nicest center armrest that I have ever come across -- it's nicely padded and its height and depth are both adjustable!

The deal.

Now, after coming the conclusion that the Jetta diesel wagon is the car for me, it was just a matter of reaching the deal and that I did. Ultimately I was able to trade in my car for just $800 less than I paid for it brand new nearly two years ago!

Which brings me back to why this car ended up being a great purchase. Despite its flaws, I had some good times with it and $800 for 2 years of owning a new car is a very good deal!

So now I once again have a new car which is very exciting. My first car was a VW Jetta and now I’m back. Let’s just hope I can keep this one longer...but no promises.

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