AN OBSERVATION about first cars. All the sensible people I know, having chucked away their L-plates, go for something sensible that’ll start up first thing on a frosty morning. The petrolheads don’t.
There’s a lot to be said for making for your first car an automotive adventure in itself, which is why my first car was a 1983 Mini. Despite being held together largely with gaffer tape and string I loved driving it but even I’ll concede it wasn’t exactly an everyday car, because every day was a new and exciting way for it to entertain you with a breakdown. Whisper it softly, but during my first stint as a reporter in North Wales my “everyday car” was a borrowed Vauxhall Corsa!
So I understood completely when a friend asked for a few car buying suggestions, not on some crusty old Sixties sports car, but a sensible, cheap secondhand supermini that’d actually be capable of getting her and her clobber up to a new job in Northumberland. She also bought a Mini as her first car, and while she’d rather sell her right arm than her pride ‘n’ joy I can understand why she’d want a more sensible automotive sidekick for the long trips to the North East.
There’s plenty on offer - even in these days of spiralling insurance, it’s still possible to buy, insure and tax a decent set of wheels for less than a grand – but if it were my money I’d be looking at Peugeot’s 306, VW’s Lupo, Skoda’s Fabia and the earlier, funkier versions of Toyota’s Yaris. They’re all usefully younger than my trusty old Rover, should eake out a few more miles to the gallon and – by virtue of being younger – have plenty of life left in them. The Peugeot, in particular, would offer you more smiles per gallon too because it’s always been a fine handler – perfect if your other car’s an old Mini and you’ve got some Northumbrian country roads to play with.
But, when it came down to sealing the deal, it wasn’t a 306 she went for, or a Yaris, Fabia or Lupo for that matter. In fact, she’d gone for the supermini you can pick up for buttons these days because everybody owned one and as a result there’s still millions to choose from. The supermini I’ve driven on countless occasions and always secretly enjoyed because it rides and handles so well. The supermini, in fact, that I passed my driving test in and which – had I not decided to go for that infernal Mini – probably would’ve been my first car.
The supermini I’d completely forgotten about. Ladies and gentleman, I give you the Ford Fiesta!