Marco Kleiner may have left behind a brand new Volkswagen Eos convertible in his native Germany when he moved to Abu Dhabi this year, but he has found several advantages to doing the typical new expat thing and renting a Toyota Yaris. "I like the car mainly because it's small and I can find a parking spot almost everywhere," says the 33-year-old, who is the revenue manager for the Rocco Forte Hotel, which is still under construction on Airport Road.
"In the beginning, I had no idea about cars and their cost here in the UAE, and another thing I kept in mind was whether I would survive this new venture here in the UAE or not," says the ever-practical Kleiner on his decision to start his Abu Dhabi driving career in a rental. "I have kept the rental on this monthly basis in order to have the flexibility to step away from it whenever I want. "One never knows what will happen at work these days - maybe an employer will send an employee back to his or her country because of financial problems," says Kleiner. "This is the world today, what do you do then? Rental gives you the option to get rid of the car as soon as possible."
Economic realities aside, Kleiner is the first to admit that he does not drive the Yaris to turn heads: "It's not my dream car, but it is something which is reasonable, affordable and which can take me comfortably from A to B." Keeping the Yaris in tip-top condition is an effort, as he finds himself on the hotel's Abu Dhabi construction site most days and it gets dirty quickly, but he says he tries to "take good care of my dusty little snowball" just as he did with his beloved Eos in Germany.
"I wash it regularly and I try to take care of it and do my best to avoid accidents and scratches," he says. The attentive service at Abu Dhabi's petrol stations is one of the perks of driving in the UAE for Kleiner, making a pleasant change from pumping his own petrol and keeping his own car clean back home in Germany. "The car wash service here is great for me - afterwards, they wipe down, dry and vacuum. It's quite luxurious and at no additional cost," he says. "I always give Dh10 extra to the guys. I feel for them, having to stay the whole day in the sun, cleaning car after car."
Kleiner learnt to drive in Germany at the age of 17 and his first car was a Volkswagen Golf Mark II. "It had state-of-the-art music equipment with big tyres and with a nice Pioneer sticker at the back window -naturally, I was young and I wanted to show off," he laughs. But now he is settling into life in Abu Dhabi with a new hotel venture to help launch, Kleiner is starting to think seriously about becoming a car owner rather than a renter. He is contemplating buying a secondhand car, possibly a Volkswagen, BMW or a small SUV.
So far, he has managed to avoid any major dramas on Abu Dhabi's roads "besides the daily battle to avoid getting hit every morning on the way to work!". He admits that, at first, driving in Abu Dhabi scared him; errant lane-changing, drivers not using their lights at night, cars parked across two spaces and drivers forgetting to signal were the main worries. "But I have recently discovered that complaining is futile as no one seems to know what they have done wrong," says Kleiner.
"Overall, it's madness. I am getting used to it now, but it would be great if everybody would have more respect towards everyone else out there," he says. "That way we could all enjoy the great roads out there." And Kleiner's ultimate car for making the most of the UAE's wide, smooth highways? "I wouldn't mind the Porsche Panamera, actually, it is a beautiful piece of work, combining luxury with a punch of power - it's not a car, it's a work of art!"