The subject of this should not sit well in PetrolBlog circles. Rather than me waxing lyrical about a unreliable French beauty from the 80s, I’m going to write a little about a 2014 Volkswagen Polo, because the car has been significant to me and my family and, at the heart of it, we all have an emotional connection with our vehicles.
In late 2013, my eldest child reached driving age. At the time, neither of our vehicles were insurable for a 17-year-old without the need for a second mortgage, but thanks to the generosity of a close friend, we were able to use an old Clio to do the miles necessary to augment the professional tuition.
Driving test time soon came around and he passed – well done him. As a consequence, we decided to add a car to the family for the eldest to drive for teaching purposes when the second child turned 17.
As a loyal reader and sporadic contributor, the right correct course of action would be to find an old Fiat Panda, Peugeot 205 or something PetrolBloggy to use as the third vehicle. The correct thing to do if the writer had a) a garage, b) a driveway, or c) time, effort and mechanical skills. It remained a romantic notion for a couple of weeks before the likely reality of having to deal with and pay for unreliability and breakdowns began to dawn (Boo – ed.).
So we drifted into the world of new car showrooms looking for an alternative that would incur monthly payments but offer the reassurance of a warranty. Our home town is well-served with garages and we were able to narrow down the prospects by eliminating vehicles on the basis of being crumbly (Citroën, Renault), having a gopping interior (Fiesta) or expensive (Suzuki). There was also an irrational hatred of Fiat (loved by me, hated by those with an actual vote) and Vauxhall (just because).
Which took us back to Volkswagen. We looked at the Up and rather liked it, but Mrs C very wisely pointed out that a carrying capacity of four, with a family of five and a ropey old Audi A6 as main transport made less sense. This car might yet have to be back-up family transport. And, hence: Polo.
Smallest engine, lowest horsepower for insurance reasons. Match trim for leather wheel, aircon and DAB radio, all for a sort-of-manageable monthly payment.
Against the odds, this little grey car has endeared itself to the family. I say “little” but I think it’s longer than a Mk2 Golf. Out of the three, it has become the car of choice for most journeys, unless all five are in the car with luggage and we’re covering some distance. We chose a five-door for ease of entry, but as cars get wider and spaces remain the same, having a shorter driver’s door is a distinct advantage.
The lack of horsepower is rarely an issue. I grant you that progress when five-up and climbing a hill would be best described as leisurely, but for the most part the Polo is happy to chunter along. We aren’t Top Gear presenters and our journeys don’t require endless waves of torque.
My eldest and middle child, who has since passed her test and driven it, both treat it with respect and a little love. Not as far as washing it or anything like that but there was mild outrage when it was suggested that it might go at the end of its PCP deal, because ‘Marco Polo’ is one of the family.
Three years on, we are faced with a similar dilemma to 2014: pay up the balance on the PCP and keep ‘Marco’, or roll into another arrangement. As ever, neither path is overwhelmingly persuasive. On the one hand, keep the car that you know, but is now three-years-old, out of warranty and rolling into MOT territory. On the other, buy a similar vehicle for a similar monthly amount.
I know the teachings of Bangernomics and I’m a firm believer in them, but I’ll refer you to points a, b and c above. I know that a chunk of each month’s amount is depreciation, but I also recognise that many more cars are sold on the basis of a monthly fee than a sticker price. In our case, it buys certainty and that has a price, but one that I am able to and happy to pay.