There is, however, a solution. Instead of buying one car which neither completely satisfies your performance cravings nor is the best option for daily use; get two. Before you type out an angry comment below and flip your desk, hear me out. As someone whose second word was car – according to a mother who was irritated that mummy came in third – I feel it is my duty to impart what I call the two car compromise.
Imagine a scale, on one end you find the word sensible and all the way at the redline you find the word silly. Simply put, a Camry is almost right on top of the sensible end, beaten only by a Corolla. Toyota is the purveyor of unbreakable transportation appliances after all, and this is far from a bad thing. On the silly end of the scale is a Alfa Romeo 156, slightly offset from being completely, utterly silly if you go for a manual. Make sense so far? Good.
The two car compromise is all about spending less on a reliable daily driver in order to indulge yourself in an affordable-to-purchase weekend toy. I’m refraining from using the word affordable without a caveat because the best weekend toys are financial black holes, as we all know too well. By avoiding using these pampered yet exciting machines on weekdays, through rush hour traffic on what are likely to be horrible roads, your running costs are greatly reduced. Petrol and parts only of course, there’s unfortunately no such thing as weekend only road tax and insurance.
I started out my life as a car owner with a 1995 Honda Accord SV4 with a Prelude-sourced H22A VTEC. In all honesty, I didn’t buy it myself. With a budget of RM30k from my kind and generous parents, I was told to go find a car that was practical for daily use and errands. No such thing as a free lunch, so if I wanted a car I had to pull my weight at home. Which was fine of course, as a male in his late teens I would have done anything to get my own set of wheels.
Instead of going the sensible route of either a Proton Saga, which was then recently available in its second generation, or a Kelisa of single digit vintage, I narrowed my choices down to the BMW E36 3-series or the Honda Accord SV4. I took the Honda, not too reluctantly I might add, because the prevailing wisdom was, and still is, that Japanese cars are cheaper to maintain than European cars.
That may be the case, but if so I must have bought the most problematic 5th gen Accord in the country. A full replacement of oil seals and uncountable engine mountings and suspension arms later, and I finally had a quasi-reliable daily driver.
And yet, I was suffering in monthly costs. It drank RON95 at a rate of 10km/litre at best, and I can’t remember a repair bill ever dipping below four figures. With my starting salary as an automotive writer, this was in no way a sustainable way to live if I wanted to put away anything at the end of the month. And so, I took the sensible plunge. My Accord was leaning towards the silly end of the scale, being 20 years by the time I decided to give it some company and my brand new Axia was undoubtedly produced with the sensible end in mind and nothing else.
For a time life was great, I drove the Axia on weekdays and got 14.5km/litre even in rush hour traffic and swapped to my Accord on the weekends to blow off some steam and let the VTEC sing to me. Fuel consumption be damned, I had earned it after five days of good behavior. This arrangement went on for a happy but very short period of time until one morning I received an upsetting phone call from a friend. I had lent him the car to use while he was back in Malaysia on holiday sometime late last year, and the auto tranny decided to give up the ghost then. My dear Accord was slipping out of gear at highway speeds.
He understandably felt bad about the whole affair, but this was not his fault in the slightest. The gearbox’s time had come and I was incredibly grateful that I had the reliable, economical Axia to keep me from using public transport and/or ride sharing.
See, when you have a sensible car and your silly car breaks down on you, nothing changes. You can still carry on with work and play as if nothing has happened. But this is exactly why the enthusiast needs two; should your silly car be benched in the garage, you bloody well have a sensible car as backup.