car shopping

So I’m looking for a car.
I’ve been to nearly all the dealers in town, and nothing inspires me – it’s all rather depressing, really. On top of the fact that everyone is turning out overpriced dreck in general, Thailand happens to be one of the most expensive markets for new and used cars I have seen. Some prices that have stuck out the past week for new (mainly 2006 year model) cars:
Honda Civic 2.0L sedan, decked out: $28,000
Honda Accord 2.4L V6, decked out: $41,000
Mazda 3 Hatchback 2.0L, decked out: $28,000
Chevy Optra 1.6L Airbag/ABS/Leather interior: $20,000
Nissan 350Z 5/6 speed MT: $140,000
… and you can buy pretty much any pickup truck you want for less than $25,000
I’ve noticed that the models offered in Thailand are fairly anemic with the small to mid-sized sedans/5 doors being capped at an even 2 liters. This is why I decided against a pimped out Mazdaspeed equivalent – because it isn’t. If I’m putting out close to 30k, I want the zoomzoom, ya know?
Another thing I noticed is that out here in the countryside, at least, even big dealerships only stock a few models of cars – understandable, I guess, but some were even reluctant to order models they didn’t have!
I actually came here wanting to buy a pickup, but decided pretty quickly that I don’t need one and it would be a bitch to drive one around everyday on errands.
SUVs are too damned expensive, plus are just too damned big for everyday use.
What I really want at this point is a full-sized sedan, but I’ll be damned before I shell out 40k for an Accord, or worse, a Camry.
That leaves the mid-sized sedans. The 1.8L Mazda 3 sedan goes for about $23,000. It’s better looking than many of its counterparts, but has a few design quirks of its own… I don’t really like the front console much at all, it’s like a gaudy stereo component system cobbled together with a readout reminiscent of NFSMW, which may work in the Mazdaspeed 3, but not the sedan.
I had to take my sister-in-law’s tiny Opel hatchback into the Chevy dealer for work (which is also the only authorized service center in the area for a few other GM brands). I was shocked! I have been checking the service areas of all the dealers, and Chevy’s was by far the cleanest and most tightly run… The staff was quick and polite, and knew what they were doing! I was so impressed, I started asking about the cars. Chevy is pushing a couple mid-sized sedans at the moment, and one of them, called the Optra, caught my eye. It looked EU-styled, handsome. It came in dark gunmetal, my favorite color. And it cost a lot less than its Japanese counterparts… Maybe, just maybe, this car was a possibility… Was it possible? Could it be true? Had it taken a lifetime of traveling and car-swapping for me to come full circle and FINALLY BUY AMERICAN?
Well, I had to think about that one. Let’s see:

  • I like the basic design, styling, and color… +1
  • GM is in the shithouse for the foreseeable future… -1
  • I can throw in my own stereo and upgrade tires/rims easily/cheaply… +1
  • A 1.6 liter engine is enough for a Japanese car this size, but an American one? Plus, the top model only upgrades the engine to a 1.8L (for an extra $5,000)… -1
  • On the other hand, more solid construction has benefits… +1
  • Resale value is horrible… -1

Hmm… pluses and minuses were an even tie just off the top of my head. Not very inspiring, but I still liked the car, so I came home to research it… Guess what?
I wasn’t thinking about buying American at all! Turns out, I was contemplating buying Korean!
It was bad enough when buying a Chevy was buying a Chevy…
The great car hunt of 2006 resumes tomorrow.

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