A new car for Georgina

Posted on December 21st, 2003 in Opinion by Julian Edgar

For those of you who follow these things, my fiancée Georgina has decided to part with her Lexus LS400. We covered the buying of the car in AutoSpeed (starts at Georgina’s New Car – Part 1) and in the 2½ years since the purchase, she has been very happy with most aspects of it. If you haven’t driven one (and reading web discussion group comments about how it is a boring car, I know that many people haven’t!) you’ve missed a superb 4-litre DOHC V8, wonderfully communicative and progressive traditional rear-wheel drive handling (although in the wet it is noticeably tail-happy), and an amazingly high build quality and equipment level.

And the reason for the sale? Well, Georgina is returning to full-time study and the loan repayments on the Lexus are prohibitive for someone without an income. So the Lexus had to go, and a replacement had to be sourced. The new car needed to cost less than AUD$6000, and I wanted something that would be safe in a crash – as I have said before, the country roads around here are very demanding and we have seen many accidents in the three years that we’ve lived here, some of them fatal.

So, safe and cheap. But then things got difficult. I’d have been quite happy to see her in a two-four-something series Volvo – a 244 or even a sportier 242GT. But Georgina had completely different ideas – and wouldn’t be seen dead in an “old square” Volvo. Hmmm. So what about a Peugeot then? Having driven AutoSpeed’s press test Peugeots – including the 406 and 206 models – she thought that sounded good, until I showed here a pic of a 504 (“yuk!”) and then a 405 (“no, too old and boring” – and yes I know that the 405 is younger than the 504…).

It then started to occur to me that we might have a problem. Six thousand dollars isn’t very much to spend, and since I didn’t want her in an Australian car (pre airbags, their crashability is really quite doubtful, especially when compared with a Euro prestige car) and since an important part of impact safety is to have a largish car, the equation of a big Euro prestige and just $6000 didn’t add up very well. Especially since now the car apparently had to look good as well….

But we went out shopping, browsing the car yards that we knew from previous kerbside crawling were likely to have a good range of cars within budget. One yard in particular was a likely contender – we’d previously seen in it everything from a Honda Beat grey market import to a BMW 750iL! And this time they had an auto Volvo 740 Turbo wagon for $7999.