x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The Air Bag: Love the car, even if you don't love the drive

Finally I've woken up, smelled the coffee and practised what I've been preaching for so long now. I've bought myself a half-decent car: a Volkswagen Scirocco.

Living in Dubai and working in Abu Dhabi means a lot of my time is spent on the E11 motorway - approximately 10 hours every working week. Taking annual leave into account, that works out at more than 18 days a year of dodging kamikaze drivers and being flashed out of the way in the outside lane while doing 140kph. That's 18 days a year of stress, drudgery and misery. So why do it in a car you hate driving?

Finally I've woken up, smelled the coffee and practised what I've been preaching for so long now. I've bought myself a half-decent car. The Nissan Tiida saloon I'd been renting for the past three months has been returned (without a mark, I might add) to its owners and I am now able to actually look forward to my drive to and from work.

In one of Neil Vorano's recent Air Bag columns, he waxed lyrical on the benefits of owning, rather than renting, a car in the UAE. This made a great deal of sense to me because, like Vorano, I'm a car guy.

He reasoned that, when you examine what a rental car actually costs over the course of a year, you could actually own something that would be inspirational and still be worth something when the time inevitably comes for a change.

Every day I drove that Tiida I got more and more depressed. It was comfortable and reliable enough but it had not even the merest hint of character, and that's one thing I always look for in a car I'm reviewing. I interviewed Ebony Penny for the My Car slot a couple of weeks ago and she'd bought herself a pretty tidy BMW Z3 for just Dh16,000. I told her at the time that I needed to just get on and buy a decent set of wheels, that she'd been an inspiration of sorts.

So I set myself a budget and began to look at what was out there.

My monthly payments for hiring the Tiida were a minimum of Dh2,300 and sometimes much more, because I was being stung for an extra percentage every time I went through the Salik tolls in Dubai and every time I received a fine. Yes, the humble Tiida is more than capable of slipping over the speed limit. My budget for monthly loan repayments, then, was set at Dh2,000 and I wanted this to be for a period of no longer than three years.

I then had a proper problem on my hands: what to buy? While Vorano and Ebony saved a packet by purchasing cheap yet stylish cars, mine would be used a lot more because of my commute. So it needed to be absolutely reliable, which meant it had to be German. It also needed to be good looking, because I'm shallow like that, and, even more importantly, fun to drive. Volkswagen's Scirocco fitted the bill nicely - I'd fallen in love with it two years ago when I had one for a week in the UK. With a turbocharged 2L engine, concept car styling and bulletproof reliability, it was a no-brainer. But surely out of reach considering my monthly maximum? Apparently not and yesterday I took delivery of a nearly new (18 month old) 2.0TSI with 43,000km on the clock - mine for Dh79,000; less than half what it would have cost its previous owner.

Having stumped up a 20 per cent deposit, my monthly outgoings are less, to the tune of at least Dh300.

And this is the most compelling reason to buy a car if you're intending to stay in the UAE for a decent length of time: even if you're paying a bit more every month, you'll eventually own something that's worth something. Even after driving it for 18 days a year.